Study Guide

The Most Dangerous Game Fear

By Richard Connell

Fear

Part 1

"One superstitious sailor can taint the whole ship's company with his fear." (1.24)

A lot of people think that superstition is contagious and go to great lengths to control it (like, say, hockey players?). Even if sailors don’t know exactly what they’re afraid of, they get a bad vibe. After all, sailors were the first to say, “Knock on wood.”

Rainsford heard a sound. It came out of the darkness, a high screaming sound, the sound of an animal in an extremity of anguish and terror. (1.36)

Wait—didn’t Rainsford just argue that animals couldn’t experience fear? If so, why would he think he hears an animal in “terror”? Wouldn’t that make him deduce that it was not, in fact, an animal—but a human?

Whitney

"Even so, I rather think they understand one thing—fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death." (1.10)

Whitney offers a compelling argument to Rainsford’s dismissive attitude toward killing jaguars: that they understand fear. Perhaps without intending it, Whitney assumes that animals have a complex understanding of what being hunted means. Do you think animals really know that they could die, or do they just flee by instinct? Do you agree with Whitney or with Rainsford here?

Part 2
Sanger Rainsford

Rainsford had fought his way through the bush for two hours. "I must keep my nerve. I must keep my nerve," he said through tight teeth. (2.1)

Rainsford has to keep his game face on here. Do you think he keeps it together?

"I will not lose my nerve. I will not." (2.10)

Rainsford has to give himself a little pep talk. Why does Connell have him speak out loud and not just think these things to himself? After all, we do have an omniscient narrator.

He stood there, rubbing his injured shoulder, and Rainsford, with fear again gripping his heart, heard the general's mocking laugh ring through the jungle. (2.14)

Again with the spooky laugh. We know Zaroff is a madman because even when he is injured, he still manages to have a good time.

At daybreak Rainsford, lying near the swamp, was awakened by a sound that made him know that he had new things to learn about fear. (2.22)

Have you noticed that Rainsford often fears what he hears much more than what he sees?

The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror. (2.10)

That general finds amusement in the strangest ways. It’s when Rainsford realizes that the general is actually enjoying torturing him that he faces his greatest fear.

It was flight now, a desperate, hopeless flight, that carried him on for some hours. (2.16)

Rainsford is functioning on pure instinct, pure adrenaline. He moves between encouraging himself and feeling that survival is hopeless.

General Zaroff

The general sucked in his breath and smiled. "I congratulate you," he said. "You have won the game." (2.35)

Now, is this a man who thinks he’s about to be fed to his own bloodhounds? The only way he could be such a good loser is that he thinks his opponent is going to play by the rules and simply go away.

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