The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

Summary: This work by Richard Connell is about a big-game hunter who loves the "great sport" of hunting and who's thoughts about a quarry change because he becomes one.

  • Whitney - another big-game hunter on the yacht
  • Sanger Rainsford - big-game hunter turned quarry
  • Captain Nielsen - Captain of yacht
  • Ivan - A Cossack who was "deaf and dumb", "a bit of a savage" according to General Zaroff, one of his duties being a waiter
  • General Zaroff - A Cossack who read Rainsford's book about "hunting snow leopards in Tibet" and eventually used Rainsford as a quarry
  • Lazarus - The "finest hound" of the general's pack which died in the Death Swamp
Section 1:
  • Ship-Trap Island is introduced which makes the nerves of Captain Nielsen and crew "jumpy"
  • The night is dark and moonless
  • Whitney points out to Rainsford, a big-game hunter, that even Rainsford has difficult seeing in this kind of night
  • Rainsford makes an argument that big-game hunters should not care how a prey feels and in his example of a jaguar Rainsford also points out that "they've no understanding"
  • Whitney says to Rainsford that the jaguar has both fear of pain and fear of death
  • Rainsford says that big-game hunting is the best sport while Whitney says that the Jaguar would not agree
  • There is a chill that puts the men on edge except for Rainsford for Rainsford believes the chill from the island to be imagination and superstition
  • Whitney believes that evil can be "tangible" which can be used as a warning device
  • Rainsford never has breakfast with Whitney because he falls of the ship when he slips off the rail after being "startled" by a gun fired "three" times
  • Before sleeping at the jungle's edge of the island of which he swam ashore, he heard an animal in "anguish and terror" who's second attempt at screaming was "cut short" by a "pistol shot"
  • Rainsford woke up hungry and found "evidence of a large animal" as well as an empty casing of a "twenty-two" caliber gun, a "light" gun
  • Rainsford came to the conclusion that it took three shots for the hunter to wound the animal in question and a last shot to "finish" it
  • Rainsford discovered footprints of "hunting boots" which led him to a "lofty structure with pointed towers"
  • Rainsford knocked twice with a "leering" gargoyle knocker and when it was finally opened, he was greated by Ivan in uniform who was the "largest man" he had ever seen and was holding a "long-barreled revolver" to Rainsford's heart
  • After explaining himself to Ivan twice, Ivan relaxed his posture with the gun and stood at attention and saluted
  • General Zaroff expressed his "pleasure and honor" to Rainsford's presence in a "cultivated" manner and was sealed with a handshake
  • General Zaroff offered amenities to Rainsford including dinner where they ate borsch and where Rainsford was studied by the general
  • Rainsford noticed the mounted heads in the hall of "many animals"
  • The general mentioned that hunting was his passion and discussed a bit about how he had to stock the island with bigger game than "The Cape" buffalo which they had discussed at dinner time
  • The general explained to Rainsford how he had become bored of the hunt because it was "a mathematical certainty" that the animal would not win and that the animal had "nothing but his legs and his instinct"
  • The general also explained that "instinct was no match for reason" which was "tragic"
  • In order for a hunt now to interest the general, the quarry must have reasoning and the general invited Rainsford to go on a hunt with him
  • Rainsford refused to go on the hunt because he thought it was murder and the general made fun of him
  • The general reveals a crew in his "training school" from the Sanlucar and tells Rainsford the rules of the game: three hours head start, supply of food, hunting knife, general has smallest caliber/range of pistol
  • Also rules of the game: if quarry survives for 3 days then he "wins" the game, if he is found by the general, "he loses"
  • Ivan, who was a person who whipped prisoners for the "Great White Tsar" would have his own game with those who refused to participate in the hunt 
  • All have chosen the hunt over Ivan, but the general explained that he had not lost up until that time
  • The general wanted to show Rainsford his "new" collection of heads but Rainsford said he was not feeling well
  • The general revealed a description of the quarry that he was to hunt
  • Rainsford could not sleep until morning when he heard a pistol shot and until then he could only think of the possibility of no escape and the "hounds" below his room window
  • The general talked about boredom again and Rainsford demanded that he was released from the island "at once"
  • Rainsford refused to hunt so the general gave him the choice between the general or Ivan for sport
  • The general said in reward for this "Outdoor chess" , if Rainsford were to win, the general would take him to town on his ship but only if also Rainsford would not say anything
  • Rainsford did not agree to the general's terms
  • The general suggested some quarry techniques to Rainsford who was to be supplied by Ivan with food, clothes and a knife as the general had mentioned earlier
  • The general also talked about Lazarus and the Death Swamp
  • Rainsford made many loops to throw off the  general at night and in the morning he was greeted by the general near his very spot that he stayed during the night; the general looked around at this very tree and smiled
  • Rainsford felt that the general could follow him at night and the general was "playing" with him as a cat does to a mouse
  • Rainsford injures the general with a "Malay man-catcher" and the general laughs and says that he will be back
  • Rainsford made a "Burmese tiger pit" which "claimed" one of the general's dogs
  • Rainsford was awakened by the sound of a pack of hounds held by Ivan's leash, followed closely by General Zaroff
  • A Ugandan device was made by Rainsford and Rainsford ran away only to see that it worked on Ivan but not on the general
  • Rainsford made it to the shore while the general made it back to the "place by the sea"
  • At dinner, the general thought about the American quarry escaping him and how hard it would be to replace Ivan
  • The general looked down to the hounds and said "Better luck another time"
  • Rainsford, having swam to the chateau, got a congratulations from the general on winning the game
  • Rainsford told the general that he was "still a beast at bay" and finally he truly won the game and slept in what was the general's bed

Other Notes:
  • It is interesting to note that at first Rainsford did not care about how prey felt. He even tried to convince the other big-game hunter, Whitney, of this by saying that a jaguar did not have the understanding of feeling.
  • Connell provides great moments of mood in order to keep physical perception interesting. Some examples are: "thick warm blackness in upon the yacht", "moist black velvet", "that I could sleep without closing my eyes; the night would be my eyelids"
  • Connell brings in great detail in the story by forcing the mind to hear, smell and see what is going on. Some examples: heavily scented cigarettes of the general, "the muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore", "the much sucked viciously at his foot as if it were a giant leech"
  • The author surprises the audience with times where they might have to predict what's going to happen. Examples: pack of hounds, what kind of animal the general was talking about that would challenge him in a hunt, both hunters knowing the traps that were being set, Rainsford swimming instead of using the jungle to travel in the final moments of the story
  • Rainsford finally gets it that even a quarry has feelings of the fear of death

© 2011 copyright The Most Dangerous Game | Richard Connell