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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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What proposal does General Zaroff make to Rainsford in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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I have always interpreted this story in a way that has Zaroff giving Rainsford two different proposals.  

The first proposal is that Rainsford accompanies Zaroff on a hunt for one of the captured sailors.  

"I'll wager you'll forget your notions when you go hunting with me. You've a genuine new thrill in store for you, Mr. Rainsford."

I believe that Zaroff is genuine in his offer to have Rainsford hunt with him.  It's clear that Zaroff considers Rainsford a bit of a celebrity hunter.  

"It is a very great pleasure and honor to welcome Mr. Sanger Rainsford, the celebrated hunter, to my home."

I think that Zaroff feels it would be fun to hunt with a world famous hunter.  I also think Zaroff genuinely wishes to see Rainsford accept and support his new type of prey.  Rainsford refuses to hunt humans with Zaroff on the grounds that it is murder.  Zaroff lets a day pass, and that's when Rainsford demands to be let off of the island.  

That's when Zaroff's proposal changes.  

"Tonight," said the general, "we will hunt--you and I."

Rainsford doesn't understand the change in the offer.  Rainsford still believes that Zaroff wants a hunting buddy.  Zaroff clarifies his offer with a threat.  

"As you wish, my friend," he said. "The choice rests entirely with you. But may I not venture to suggest that you will find my idea of sport more diverting than Ivan's?"

He nodded toward the corner to where the giant stood, scowling, his thick arms crossed on his hogshead of chest.

"You don't mean--" cried Rainsford.

"My dear fellow," said the general, "have I not told you I always mean what I say about hunting? This is really an inspiration. I drink to a foeman worthy of my steel--at last." The general raised his glass, but Rainsford sat staring at him.

"You'll find this game worth playing," the general said enthusiastically." Your brain against mine. Your woodcraft against mine. Your strength and stamina against mine. Outdoor chess! And the stake is not without value, eh?"

Zaroff's new "proposal" is that Rainsford either accepts to be the prey or Rainsford can be beaten to death by Ivan.  It's not a great proposal for Rainsford.  He's likely to die with either choice, but at least becoming the prey gives Rainsford the chance at surviving.  

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In "The Most Dangerous Game" I interpreted it that General Zaroff proposes to Rainsford that they hunt together.  Rainsford asks to be excused because he doesn't feel well.  The next day Zaroff proposes yet again that they go hunting.  When Rainsford says he wants to leave the island, Zaroff says he is sorry to hear that and because he won't hunt with Zaroff, Rainsford will become the prey.

""Well, I suppose that's only natural, after your long swim. You need a good, restful night's sleep. Tomorrow you'll feel like a new man, I'll wager. Then we'll hunt, eh? I've one rather promising prospect--" Rainsford was hurrying from the room.

"Sorry you can't go with me tonight," called the general. "I expect rather fair sport--a big, strong, black. He looks resourceful--Well, good night, Mr. Rainsford; I hope you have a good night's rest."

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What does the general want from Rainsford in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

As soon as General Zaroff meets Rainsford at his chateau, he is interested in the American big game hunter. Zaroff instantly recognizes Rainsford and mentions that he read his book "about hunting snow leopards in Tibet." At first, the relationship between the two men is quite cordial. They share a passion for the same sport. At dinner, Rainsford even thinks of the general as an "affable host, a true cosmopolite." Rainsford, however, does notice the general seems to be "studying him." In fact, the general is definitely sizing up Rainsford, and may even have it in his mind from the very beginning that he will eventually hunt Rainsford. After revealing that he actually hunts men, the general offers to hunt with Rainsford, who severely criticizes Zaroff for his abominable practice and sternly refuses to participate, labeling Zaroff a cold-blooded murderer. Soon enough, the general tells Rainsford he will be hunted. The general is excited by the idea of matching wits with another accomplished hunter:

"You'll find this game worth playing," the general said enthusiastically. "Your brain against mine. Your woodcraft against mine. Outdoor chess! And the stake is not without value, eh?"

During the actual hunt, the general is certainly not disappointed. Rainsford proves to be an elusive and resourceful prey. In the end, the general may have gotten exactly what he wanted out of Rainsford, a competitive and thrilling adventure, not the usual boring pursuit that slowly eroded his love for hunting.

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