silhouette of a man with one eye open hiding in the jungle

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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What is the Malay mancatcher in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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The Malay mancatcher in "The Most Dangerous Game" is a trap set by Rainsford for General Zaroff. It is a mechanism where a dead tree, laid on a living one, falls when a trigger is touched, potentially causing harm to the person triggering it. Zaroff, being a skilled hunter, manages to evade serious injury from the trap, receiving only a shoulder wound. This trap marks Rainsford's first real attempt to ensnare Zaroff after his initial strategies prove less effective.

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The Malay mancatcher is the name of a trap that Rainsford sets for General Zaroff in the story “The Most Dangerous Game.” It is made by laying a dead tree on a living one, with a trigger which when touched sends the dead tree crashing down, possibly hurting the person for whom the trap is intended. In the story, the falling tree fails to seriously hurt Zaroff even though he does touch the “protruding bough that is the trigger.” Being an adept hunter, Zaroff senses that he has set off a trap and moves away “with the agility of an ape,” but not fast enough to completely avoid the falling tree—it hits him in the shoulder. Afterward, he tauntingly says this to Rainsford: “Rainsford, if you are within sound of my voice, as I suppose you are, let me congratulate you. Not many men know how to make a Malay mancatcher. Luckily for me, I too have hunted in Malacca. You are proving interesting Mr. Rainsford. I am going now to have my wound dressed; it’s only a slight one. But I shall be back, I shall be back.”

The Malay mancatcher is the first real trap that Rainsford sets for Zaroff. Initially, he had “played the fox and cat of the fable.” This involved creating a trail for Zaroff to follow, then lying in hiding, like a cat, on the branches of a large tree. It seems like this initial maneuver wasn’t entirely successful—Rainsford got the feeling that Zaroff had pretended not to see him in the branches of the tree so as to “save him for another day’s sport.”

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The Malay mancatcher is a trap set by Rainsford that injures Zaroff. Throughout the story, Rainsford is forced to use his experiences and various skills as an experienced hunter to avoid being killed by Zaroff. 

The design of this particular trap is that the intended target, Zaroff, will trip the trigger and "the large dead tree, delicately adjusted to rest on the cut living one" will come crashing down and crush Zaroff. Unfortunately, the trap does not work to the extent that Rainsford desires. It only wounds Zaroff on the shoulder.

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Describe the Malay man-catcher in "The Most Dangerous Game."

Appalled when he learns that the Russian general Zaroff hunts "the most dangerous game" of all, men, Rainsford asks to be allowed to leave the island only to learn that the only way he will be allowed to do so is if he succeeds in outwitting the general at the hunt the next day. After fighting his way in the night through heavy brush, Rainsford creates a trail that winds and loops back upon itself. However, Zaroff easily follows him. So, after terror-filled moments when the hunter stands beneath the tree in which he hides, calmly smoking Rainsford decides to set a trap: the Malay man-catcher.

When he sees a great dead tree that dangerously leans upon a living one, Rainsford takes his knife and fashions a trap that is made by balancing the dead tree upon the living one, one of whose boughs on the ground protrudes as a trigger. When this bough is stepped on, it sets off the trap, freeing the dead bough to drop upon the victim, crushing him. When Zaroff sets off the trigger bough, he jumps back "with the agility of an ape." However, he does injure his shoulder. Turning back to have his wound dressed, Zaroff calls to Rainsford, congratulating him. "You are proving interesting, Mr. Rainsford...But I shall be back...."

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What does the "Malay mancatcher" look like in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

A Malay mancatcher is made from a dead tree resting on a living one.

In this story, Rainsford finds himself accidentally trapped on an island with a homicidal maniac, General Zaroff.  Zaroff got bored with hunting animals and decided that hunting humans is more fun.  He made his home on this island, mostly using sailors as his prey.  Even they were getting boring, however, so he was very excited when Rainsford showed up.  Rainsford was not interested in playing his game as a fellow hunter, so he became prey.

At this point in the story, Rainsford is alone in the forest trying to evade capture and death by Zaroff.  He is also trying not to lose his nerve.  Rainsford is a talented hunter himself, having been to many countries and written several books.  He sees something that gives him an idea, “a huge dead tree leaned precariously on a smaller, living one.”  This gives him the idea to make a Malay mancatcher.  He thinks that if he can capture or kill Zaroff, he can save himself.  He gets to work and sets the trap.

Rainsford waits, and Zaroff comes.  His foot touches the trigger, a “protruding bough” and he leaps back because he senses danger.

But he was not quite quick enough; the dead tree, delicately adjusted to rest on the cut living one, crashed down and struck the general a glancing blow on the shoulder as it fell; but for his alertness, he must have been smashed beneath it.

The general escapes, just in time.  He is impressed, and congratulates Rainsford.  He does not know exactly where he is, but he knows that he is nearby watching.  Then he leaves.  The trap has earned Rainsford some peace for the rest of the day, while Zaroff leaves to get his wound dressed.

Zaroff’s reaction to the trap is interesting.  He is almost happy, because he feels he has met a worthy ally.  He salutes Rainsford.  He also demonstrates his own cunning, because he has been to Malacca and seen the trap before.  It shows that as clever as Rainsford is, Zaroff is not going to be easy to evade.  It also shows that Zaroff is more than just a killer.  He really does enjoy sport for sport’s sake.

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