The Most Dangerous Game Summary

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

The short story "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell features an intense man versus man conflict between the two main characters: Rainsford and Zaroff. The majority of the story, told from third-person point of view, follows Rainsford's limited consciousness. It begins with Rainsford having a conversation with Whitney aboard a ship as they pass Ship-Trap Island. They talked about how amazing hunting was, but Whitney pointed out that it probably isn't as fun for the animals being hunted. After a while Whitney went off to bed, and Rainsford sat smoking on the deck when he heard a gunshot. Rainsford jumped onto the rail to try to see where the noise had come from when he knocked the pipe out of his mouth. He tried to catch it and fell into the water. Knowing he couldn't catch up with the ship, he went in the direction of the noise, hoping to find land. As he drew closer, he heard a screaming sound, like an animal in pain, but he continued to swim toward the ruckus. He finally reached shore and didn't awake until late the next afternoon.

Since he had heard gunfire, he knew men were around somewhere. He found traces of blood on the ground and followed the boot prints that led away from it. He came to an enormous mansion and knocked on the door. The door opened to reveal a gigantic man with no shirt on pointing a revolver at Rainsford. Sanger Rainsford told the man his name and explained that he had fallen off his yacht. Suddenly, General Zaroff appeared, called off the man with the rifle, shook Rainsford's hand, and told him he had read his book. He explained that his assistant Ivan was deaf then he invited him in. Ivan helped to show Rainsford to a bedroom where he was able to change his clothes. He noticed the many mounted animal heads along the walls.

When he returned, General Zaroff offered Rainsford a cocktail and some soup. They talk about hunting, and General Zaroff says he likes to hunt the biggest game available: people. Rainsford protests that what he says refers to murder, but Zaroff insists there's a difference. He treats his "guests" kindly, providing them with food, shelter, and exercise. Of course, he is the one who lures these guests to his house by causing their ships to have accidents, leaving them stranded on his island. He tells Rainsford he has about a dozen people currently in his training school that he can show him. When it is time to go hunting, he supplies his adversary with food, a knife, and a three-hour head start. If the person can survive for three days, he wins. If the people refuse to go hunting, he turns them over to Ivan. So far, General Zaroff has never lost. Rainsford told General Zaroff that he wasn't feeling well and went to his room. He tried to escape, but his door was locked and looking down he saw the dogs that guarded the property.

The next day Rainsford told General Zaroff that he wished to leave, and he refused to hunt, so General Zaroff asked if he would rather face Ivan instead. Rainsford knew what that meant. He would have to evade General Zaroff. He let Rainsford off to get started. Rainsford tried to hide in a tree. It seemed General Zaroff may have found him because a smile came across his face as he stood beneath the tree, but then he turned and left; it seemed he would live to see another day. The next day Rainsford decided to build a trap: a Malay man-catcher, which hit the general in the shoulder, so he would have to return after attending to his injury. Next he found some quicksand that he was able to cover up. He heard the hounds coming, and the pit took one of the dogs. Rainsford climbed a nearby tree then tied his knife to a pulled-back branch. The knife killed Ivan. Rainsford ran until he reached the cliffs then leaped out into the sea.

At this time in the story, the point of view briefly jumps inside General Zaroff's head. The reader has no idea what has become of Rainsford, but Zaroff assumes he died in the water. Zaroff goes home and gets ready for bed. When he turns out the light, a man emerges from behind the curtains. Zaroff is stunned to see Rainsford in his bedroom. General Zaroff smiles and congratulates Rainsford on winning the game, but Rainsford proclaims that he is still his prey. The General accepts the challenge and says that one of them will feed the hounds and the other will sleep in his very comfortable bed. The story ends with Rainsford deciding that he'd never slept in a better bed, meaning he had won.

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