[…] and doggedly he swam in that direction, swimming with slow, deliberate strokes, conserving his strength (1.35)
Well, he is swimming toward the pistol shots, but we’ll give him credit that he knows what he’s doing. Notice that he’s not thrashing around—he’s slow and deliberate, knowing he’s in for the long haul.
A certain cool headedness had come to him; it was not the first time he had been in a tight place. (1. 34)
He’s a hunter, after all. He’s probably faced down a Sumatran rhinoceros in the tropical lowlands of Borneo—you think a little water is going to stop him? But of course, this is only the beginning.
What perils that tangle of trees and underbrush might hold for him did not concern Rainsford just then (1.39)
So whether something was lurking in the jungle waiting to pounce does not concern a man who is just trying to survive.
“Your brain against mine. Your woodcraft against mine. Your strength and stamina against mine. Outdoor chess!” (1.162)
Ask yourself this one: Why doesn’t Zaroff just play chess? Because he likes the physical challenge, too?
“Instinct is no match for reason.” (1.98)
This idea dominates the story, so keep it at the forefront of your mind as you read—and maybe as you live your daily life. Can you always think your way out of a situation?
Then he leaped far out into the sea (2.29)
Back where he started, Rainsford uses the sea to his advantage. Zaroff may know the island, but he can’t think outside the box—or the, uh, island.
He saw that straight flight was futile; inevitably it would bring him face to face with the sea. He was in a picture with a frame of water, and his operations, clearly, must take place within that frame. (2.2)
Rainsford’s first thought is that he must function on the territory of the island itself. It’s only when he throws away this idea that he is able to survive—and prevail.
Rainsford knew he could do one of two things. He could stay where he was and wait. That was suicide. He could flee. That was postponing the inevitable (2.23)
Must. Keep. Moving. Does he really believe that resistance is futile? How does he regain faith that victory is in his reach?
Rainsford's second thought was even more terrible. It sent a shudder of cold horror through his whole being. Why had the general smiled? Why had he turned back? (2.9)
Here’s where you really see the hunt as a game. Why does Zaroff let Rainsford win? What exactly is the pleasure he gets at this point?
"Your Burmese tiger pit has claimed one of my best dogs. Again you score. I think, Mr. Rainsford, I’ll see what you can do against my whole pack. I'm going home for a rest now. Thank you for a most amusing evening." (2.21)
One scored for Rainsford. But if Zaroff is such a superior hunter, why does he need a pack of bloodhounds to help him?