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The Most Dangerous Game

Richard Connell

Important Quotations Explained

The Serial Gothic Adventure

How to Cite This SparkNote

1. “Instinct is no match for reason.”

General Zaroff’s smug formulation in his initial conversation with Rainsford over dinner summarizes the common assumption that instinct and reason are mutually exclusive. Connell explores this misperception by contrasting culture and society with the bestial, savage, and survivalist impulses all animals have. Although General Zaroff believes that logic and cool thinking always allow him to triumph over terrified prey, his physical injuries sustained from springing Rainsford’s traps highlight the flaws in his reasoning and suggest that he’s much more vulnerable than he’d like to believe. In the end, Rainsford survives the hunt only after fear forces him to jump off the cliff into the ocean, a rasher decision than he would ordinarily make. The animal and human elements work in tandem to ensure his survival.

2. “I have played the fox, now I must play the cat of the fable.”

After creating a misleading path through the jungle to lose Zaroff on the first night of the hunt, Rainsford switches modes and hides in a tree to save some of his strength. Comparing Rainsford with foxes and cats allows Connell to highlight Rainsford’s descent into a more animalistic state in which he must mimic the instinctive behavior of animals to survive. This quotation also reminds readers of Rainsford’s earlier conversation with his friend Whitney on board the yacht when Rainsford dismisses the notion that prey feel fear. Such thoughts, he had initially believed, only personify animals and ascribe a complexity of thought and emotion that animals don’t really possess. Playing the fox, however, with hunting hounds close on his heels, Rainsford feels the powerlessness and terror that all prey feel. Even though he jumps to his seeming death out of fear of the pursuing dogs, he manages to keep his fear in check enough to ultimately outwit General Zaroff and end the hunt.

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