Essential Passage 1
...He was finding the general a most thoughtful and affable host, a true cosmopolite. But there was one small trait of the general’s that made Rainsford uncomfortable. Whenever he looked up from his plate he found the general studying him, appraising him narrowly.
Off the coast of Brazil, Sanger Rainsford (a hunter from America bound for the Amazon) falls off his yacht after hearing screams from a distant island. Finally reaching shore, he struggles through the dense forest to find a tall, gloomy castle built on a cliff above the bay. Knocking on the door, he is met by the largest man he has ever seen. This giant, named Ivan, leads Rainsford into the castle where he is introduced to the master, General Zaroff. Dressed tastefully, General Zaroff is not the kind of person Rainsford expected to find on a deserted island. Zaroff shows him to a richly furnished room where the American is given dry clothes. Rainsford then joins Zaroff in the dining room, which displays a rich variety of food and drink. As they visit, Rainsford is impressed with the sophistication of his host. However, he does not like the way that Zaroff is constantly and intently observing him: Rainsford feels as if he is being appraised for worthiness. That is the only aspect of his host Rainsford finds troubling.
Essential Passage 2
“Tonight,” said the general, “we will hunt—you and I.”
Rainsford shook his head. “No, general,” he said. “I will not hunt.”
The general shrugged his shoulders and delicately ate a hothouse grape. “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 raises 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?”
General Zaroff explains to Rainsford his love for the hunt. Having chased game all over the world, Zaroff had come to South America in hopes of finding sport hunting the jaguar. Alas, it was not as challenging as he had hoped, and he became bored. He discovered that the most exciting challenge is hunting “the most dangerous game”—human beings. From local natives to stranded individuals, Zaroff has given each “prey” three days in which to survive. When Rainsford expresses his horror, asking whether the prey has any choice, Zaroff explains that they may choose not to participate, at which point they are turned...
(The entire section is 1341 words.)