"The Most Dangerous Game" is a 1924 short story by Richard Connell in which Sanger Rainsford must fight for his life while being hunted for sport.
- After washing ashore on an island, big-game hunter Rainsford realizes that General Zaroff, the island's owner, hunts humans for sport, having grown bored of hunting animals.
- Zaroff decides to hunt Rainsford, hoping that Rainsford's experience as a hunter will make him more challenging prey.
- Rainsford hides in the woods, where he sets several traps to outsmart Zaroff, all of which fail.
- Desperate, Rainsford fakes his own death and sneaks into Zaroff’s quarters.
- The two men duel, and Rainsford emerges victorious.
At the beginning of “The Most Dangerous Game,” two hunters, Whitney and Rainsford, are sailing on a yacht at night and discussing a large island they are passing. Whitney says that the large island, invisible in the darkness, is known as "Ship-Trap Island" and is the subject of sailors’ superstitions. He dismisses this as nonsense, however, and the pair begin to discuss hunting. Whitney expresses some sympathy for hunted animals, noting that they must surely feel fear, but Rainsford says this is "soft" of Whitney and that he should be a realist and recognize that there are two "classes" of beings in the world: “the hunters and the huntees.” Rainsford declares that they should both count themselves lucky to be hunters, rather than the converse.
Whitney returns to the question of the island, saying that a "chill" has afflicted him in the past when drawing close to the island. When Rainsford dismisses this feeling, Whitney declares that he is going to bed, leaving Rainsford to smoke his pipe alone on the afterdeck.
The silence of the night is suddenly broken by the sound of a gun being fired three times. Rainsford goes to the rail, trying to see through the darkness what has caused the noise. He climbs up onto the rail and inadvertently drops his pipe overboard. When he leans out to get it, he falls from the boat and into the Caribbean Sea. Helpless, he watches the yacht speed away from him and, although he shouts, nobody hears him.
When the yacht has disappeared into the darkness, Rainsford begins swimming in the direction from which the sound of shots had come. As he swims, he hears the call of another animal and another pistol shot. Eventually he reaches a rocky shore and, pulling himself up onto flat ground, collapses and sleeps until late afternoon the next day.
Telling himself that there must be men on the island somewhere, he gets up and begins walking. As he goes, he finds evidence of hunting: patches of blood, trampled undergrowth, and a .22 cartridge, which he considers a rather light caliber for hunting animals. By the time he sees the lights of a house, it is almost dark, and at first Rainsford thinks he is seeing things. But the house—a large Gothic mansion—is real, and when Rainsford knocks on the door, it is opened by a "gigantic" bearded man. Rainsford introduces himself as Sanger Rainsford of New York City, and says that he has fallen from a yacht and is hungry.
The man levels a revolver at him, seemingly unmoved by Rainsford's words. At this juncture, however, a second man, in evening clothes and with a precise accent, arrives and welcomes him to his home. He introduces himself as General Zaroff and says that he has read Rainsford's book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet.
Zaroff is a refined and handsome man with white hair. He explains that the large man, Ivan, is deaf and dumb and is a Cossak, as Zaroff himself is. He then offers Rainsford clean clothes and a dinner of borscht. Rainsford finds the general affable and polite.
Zaroff explains that hunting is his passion and that he reads all books on the topic published in English, French, and Russian. He then says that he hunts "dangerous game" on this island, which he stocks for the purpose. Rainsford assumes he means tigers, but Zaroff declares that there is no real danger or thrill in tigers. He...
(The entire section is 1,299 words.)