Richard Connell

The Most Dangerous Game

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The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell - also published as "The Hounds of Zaroff", is a short story by Richard Connell, first published in Collier's on January 19, 1924, with illustrations by Wilmot Emerton Heitland. The story features a big-game hunter from New York City who falls from a yacht and swims to what seems to be an abandoned and isolated island in the Caribbean, where he is hunted by a Russian aristocrat. The story is inspired by the big-game hunting safaris in Africa and South America that were particularly fashionable among wealthy Americans in the 1920s. The story has been adapted numerous times, most notably as the 1932 RKO Pictures film The Most Dangerous Game, starring Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks and Fay Wray, and for a 1943 episode of the CBS Radio series Suspense, starring Orson Welles. It has been called the "most popular short story ever written in English." Upon its publication, it won the O. Henry Award. Plot Big-game hunter Sanger Rainsford and his friend Whitney are traveling by ship to the Amazon rainforest for a jaguar hunt. After a discussion about the nearby Ship-Trap Island, which has an evil reputation among sailors, Whitney goes to bed while Rainsford stays on deck to smoke his pipe. Hearing gunshots in the distance, he rushes to the rail for a better look and accidentally falls overboard. Rainsford swims to Ship-Trap and finds an opulent chateau inhabited by two Cossacks: the owner, General Zaroff, and his gigantic deaf-mute servant, Ivan. Zaroff, another big-game hunter, knows of Rainsford from his published account of hunting snow leopards in Tibet. Over dinner, the middle-aged Zaroff explains that although he has been hunting animals since he was a boy, he has decided that killing big game has become boring for him. After escaping the Russian Revolution, he purchased Ship-Trap, built a home for himself, and rigged the island with lights to lure passing ships into the jagged rocks that surround it. He takes the survivors captive and hunts them for sport, giving them food, clothing, a knife, and a head start of several hours, and using only a small-caliber pistol for himself. Any captives who can elude Zaroff, Ivan, and a pack of hunting dogs for three days are set free. He reveals that he has won every hunt to date. Captives are offered a choice between being hunted or turned over to Ivan, who once served as official knouter for the Great White Czar. Rainsford denounces the hunt as barbarism, but Zaroff replies by claiming that "life is for the strong." Zaroff is enthused to have another world-class hunter as a companion and, at breakfast, offers to take Rainsford along with him on his next hunt. Rainsford staunchly refuses and demands to leave the island, disappointing Zaroff who then has another epiphany: he will hunt Rainsford. Zaroff becomes impersonal and lays out the parameters of the game as he would to any captive sailor. Rainsford reluctantly accepts the terms and receives his equipment from Ivan.
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