Common Core ELA Standards: RL.9.1, RL.9.2, RL.9.3, RL.9.5; W.9.1, W.9.4, W.9.9; SL.9.1; L.9.1, L.9.2 L.9.4, L.9.5
Preparing for Teaching Read the Big Ideas and Key Understandings and the Synopsis. Please do not read this to the students. This is a description for teachers about the big ideas and key understanding that students should take away after completing this task.
Big Ideas and Key Understandings
All animals have a basic instinct for survival.
The animalistic impulses of humans lurk shallowly beneath our civilized exteriors.
A renowned hunter, Sanger Rainsford, falls overboard from a yacht in the Caribbean and ends up on an island with the Russian expatriate General Zaroff. Rainsford learns about Zaroff's new hunting quarry before becoming prey himself. The two play a life-and-death game that results in only one survivor.
Read the entire selection, keeping in mind the Big Ideas and Key Understandings.
Re-read the text while noting the stopping points for the Text Dependent Questions and teaching Tier II/academic vocabulary.
During Teaching Students read the entire selection independently.
Teacher reads the text aloud while students follow along or students take turns reading aloud to each other. Depending on the text length and student need, the teacher may choose to read the full text or a passage aloud. For a particularly complex text, the teacher may choose to reverse the order of steps 1 and 2.
Students and teacher re-read the text while stopping to respond to and discuss the questions, continually returning to the text. A variety of methods can be used to structure the reading and discussion (i.e., whole class discussion, think-pair-share, independent written response, group work, etc.)
Text Dependent Questions
What mood is Connell trying to establish in the opening pages of the story? Identify words and phrases the author uses to establish this mood.
Connell is trying to create a mood of unease, uncertainty, and evil. He uses words and phrases such as “Ship-Trap,” “curious dread,” “superstition,” “thick warm blackness,” “moist velvet,” “cannibals,” “God-forsaken place,” “crew's nerves seemed a bit jumpy today,” “as if the air about us was actually poisonous,” “sudden dread,” “taint the whole ship's company with his fear,” “evil is a tangible thing.”
Connell uses figurative language (simile, metaphor, and personification) to create strong sensory impressions in the reader. Identify several examples of figurative language in the opening pages of the story and tell what effect each creates as well as the overall effect.
“...you can't see four miles or so through a moonless Caribbean night.” “Nor four yards...Ugh! It's like moist black velvet.” (40)
This simile creates an effect of darkness and dampness that permeates the entire story.
“The sea was as flat as a plate glass window.” (40)
The calm suggested by the elements in this simile contrast with the “chills” that going by the island creates.
“Sometimes I think evil is a tangible thing—with wavelengths, such as sound and light have.” (41)
This metaphor introduces evil as something real and threatening.
“He strained his eyes in the direction from which the reports had come, but it was like trying to see through a blanket.” (42)
This simile describes the dark as camouflaging or shielding the evil that Rainsford will inevitably confront.
The personification used here introduces the violence that is integral to the story when he is “slapped.”
“The lights of the yacht became faint and ever vanishing fireflies; then they were blotted out entirely by the night.” (42)
The metaphorical fireflies may be associated with the pleasure trip that Rainsford was on, which has now been superseded by the struggle for survival.
“Ten minutes of determined effort brought another sound to his ears—the most welcome he had ever heard—the muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore.” (42)
The personification demonstrates how desperate Rainsford was by this time—that the “growling” of the sea could be a welcome sound.
“All he knew was that he was safe from his enemy, the sea, and that utter weariness was on him.” (42)
This introduces the idea of fighting for your life against an enemy. This is ironic because he has been saved from one enemy just in time to face another.
Overall, these examples of figurative language contribute to setting up the mood of the story and to introducing the danger in which Rainsford finds himself.
Rainsford is a man of logic. Give evidence from the story of Rainsford using reason to get himself out of difficult situations.
When Rainsford falls from the yacht, he quickly realizes that he cannot get back to the yacht. “A certain coolheadedness had come to him; it was not the first time he had been in a tight place.” The “chance” that he could be heard was growing slender, so he “wrestled himself out of his clothes and shouted with all of his power.” He “remembered the shots...had come from the right, and doggedly he swam in that direction, swimming with slow, deliberate strokes, conserving his strength.” Once he reaches the island and has slept, he wakes up and thinks “Where there are pistol shots, there are men. Where there are men, there is food.”
When Zaroff started to hunt him, at first Rainsford “plunged along” feeling something “very like panic.” Then he “got a grip on himself” and took “stock of himself and the situation.” He realized that “straight flight was futile” because “inevitably it would bring him face to face with the sea.”
When Zaroff discovers him, “Rainsford did not want to believe what reason told him was true,” which is that “the general was playing with him.” When Rainsford is being hunted by the pack of hounds, he knows it is “suicide” to “stay and wait,” but to “flee” is only “postponing the inevitable.”
Does Rainsford's perspective on hunting shift throughout the story? Give evidence to support your answer.
Before falling off the yacht, Rainsford believes that hunting is merely a sport, a great sport, and that if you show compassion for the prey, you are soft.
“Who cares how a jaguar feels?” Rainsford claims “[t]his hot weather is making you soft, Whitney” when Whitney suggests that jaguars “understand one thing—fear.”
Rainsford laughs off this theory, reminding Whitney that “[t]he world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees.”
However, when Rainsford becomes the prey, he begins to know the terrors of being hunted.
“I will not lose my nerve. I will not” (54). “The hounds raised their voices as they hit the fresh scent. Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels” (57).
When Rainsford realizes that the general knows exactly where he is and is “saving him for another day's sport,” he has an epiphany. “It was then that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror” (54).
Finally, at the end when Zaroff congratulates Rainsford on having won the game, Rainsford says, “I am still a beast at bay.”
What evidence in the story demonstrates that Zaroff is prejudiced? How does this influence our opinion of him?
Zaroff praises his manservant Ivan as “an incredibly strong fellow” before demonstrating his prejudice by adding that “like all his race, [Ivan is] a bit of a savage.”
While talking with Rainsford, Zaroff says, “The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong” (49). Zaroff believes that he is far above those that he is hunting - “I hunt the scum of the earth—sailors from tramp ships, lascars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels—a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them” (49). Zaroff goes on to say, “One does not expect nowadays to find a young man of the educated class, even in America, with such a naïve, and, if I may say so, mid-Victorian point of view” (49). “That's the trouble with these sailors; they have dull brains to begin with...” (51).
This influences our opinion of him because each of us feels put-down by his arrogance, and we deepen our dislike of General Zaroff. (We have already inferred that he hunts humans and have therefore formed a dislike of him.)
Rainsford clearly considers himself superior to Zaroff as a human being. What evidence in the story supports this idea?
“Hunting? Good God, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder” (49), which is what Rainsford says when he first realizes exactly what Zaroff is doing on the island. At the end of the story, Rainsford prepares to fight Zaroff to the death – “Get ready, General Zaroff” (57). “He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided” (57).
What evidence can be found in the story to demonstrate that Rainsford is similar to Zaroff?
Rainsford, like Zaroff, has developed a taste for the finer things in life, which we see when he “indolently puff[s] on his favorite brier.” Later, we see the general doing his best “to preserve the amenities of civilization” as he retrieves a “gold cigarette case” and offers Rainsford “a long black cigarette with a silver tip.” These trappings of elitism in human society camouflage the animal instincts for survival as the two match wits in the “most dangerous game.” Zaroff clearly knows Rainsford from the beginning “It is a very great honor to welcome Mr. Sanger Rainsford to my home...I've read your book about hunting” (44).
When Zaroff says, “I drink to a foeman worthy of my steel” (52).
At the end, when Zaroff says that Rainsford has won and Rainsford replies, “I am still a beast at bay...Get ready, General Zaroff” (57).
What evidence can be found in the story to support the idea that humans’ animalistic impulses are not far below their civilized exteriors?
When Rainsford is trying to survive and he thinks of a possible trap for Zaroff, “like some prehistoric beaver, he began to dig” (53).
Rainsford's eagerness to hunt for sport is replaced by his joy in believing that one of his traps has succeeded in killing Zaroff: “He felt an impulse to cry aloud with joy; he heard the sharp scream of pain as the pointed stick found its mark” (56).
At the very end of the story, Rainsford insists on killing or being killed. “I am still a beast at bay,” he said, in a low, hoarse voice. Get ready, General Zaroff” (57). At the end of the story, Rainsford “had never slept in a better bed” (57), indicating that he is at peace with having killed Zaroff.
What ultimately allows Rainsford to prevail over Zaroff?
Rainsford swam “[a]cross a cove [where] he could see the gloomy gray stone of the chateau” where he hid behind the curtains of Zaroff's bedroom, awaiting his captor's return. There, the two men fought to the death, with the loser “furnish[ing] a repast for the hounds” and the winner deciding “[h]e had never slept in a better bed.”
On page 40 of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, Rainsford says, “The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees.” Explain the significance of this perspective in relation to the two main characters of Rainsford and Zaroff. What do the words and actions of these characters reveal about Connell’s view of human nature? Using textual evidence, write a well-developed response to these questions.
Students identify their writing task from the prompt provided.
Students complete an evidence chart as a pre-writing activity. Teachers should guide students in gathering and using any relevant notes they compiled while reading and answering the text-dependent questions earlier. Some students will need a good deal of help gathering this evidence, especially when this process is new and/or the text is challenging.
Once students have completed the evidence chart, they should look back at the writing prompt in order to remind themselves what kind of response they are writing (i.e. expository, analytical, argumentative) and think about the evidence they found. (Depending on the grade level, teachers may want to review students’ evidence charts in some way to ensure accuracy.) From here, students should develop a specific thesis statement. This could be done independently, with a partner, small group, or the entire class. Consider directing students to the following sites to learn more about thesis statements: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/545/01/ OR http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/ thesis_statement.shtml.
Students compose a rough draft. With regard to grade level and student ability, teachers should decide how much scaffolding they will provide during this process (i.e. modeling, showing example pieces, sharing work as students go).
Students complete final draft.
Evidence that Zaroff considers himself civilized
Explanation of how the evidence supports the idea that Zaroff considers himself civilized
Zaroff describes his servant Ivan as “like all his race, a bit of a savage” (44)
“We do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here...Do you think the champagne has suffered from its long ocean trip?” (45)
“You see, I read all books on hunting published in English, French, and Russian.” (45)
“The general took from his pocket a gold cigarette case and offered his guest a long black cigarette with a silver tip; it was perfumed and gave off a smell like incense.” (47)
“Now, mine is an analytical mind, Mr. Rainsford.” (50)
“Oh yes,..I have electricity. We try to be civilized here.” (50)
“A trace of anger was in the general's black eyes, but it was there for but a second; and he said, in his most pleasant manner, 'Dear me, what a righteous young man you are! I assure you, I do not do the thing you suggest. That would be barbarous.' ” (50)
If Ivan is a savage, then, by contrast, Zaroff must see himself as more civilized.
Zaroff specifically states that he is trying to emulate the finer points of civilization despite the fact that the island is so far removed from it. He is also serving champagne, a very upper class beverage.
Zaroff has read extensively on the subject of hunting, and his reading has been in a number of languages, which shows the reader how educated he is. Education could definitely be considered evidence of civilization.
Zaroff will accept only the best for himself in many areas—even including the cigarettes that he smokes with silver tips. Only a person from the civilized upper class would be able to afford such expensive things.
Zaroff is telling Rainsford how he used his mind to reason out a solution to his problem of being bored while hunting.
Zaroff sees having all of the modern conveniences—such as electricity—as evidence that he can lead a civilized life no matter where he is.
Zaroff has the ability to (mostly) control his emotions, as most civilized people would when they are angered by what someone says.
Evidence that Rainsford considers Zaroff civilized
Explanation of how the evidence supports the idea that Rainsford considers Zaroff civilized
Zaroff has “a cultivated voice,” and “the face of an aristocrat.” (44)
“Ivan laid out an evening suit, and Rainsford, as he put it on, noticed that it came from a London tailor who ordinarily cut and sewed for none below the rank of duke.” (45)
“The dining room...suggested a baronial hall of feudal times with its oaken panels, its high ceiling, it vast refectory tables where two score men could sit down to eat.” (45)
“The table appointments were of the finest—the linen, the crystal, the silver, the china.” (45)
“[Rainsford] was finding the general a most thoughtful and affable host, a true cosmopolite.” (45)
Rainsford's first impression of Zaroff demonstrates that Rainsford sees the general as a member of a superior class.
Rainsford is impressed by the clothing provided for him by Zaroff. He knows enough about clothing to be impressed by the tailor who made it.
Rainsford is impressed by both the size and the style of the dining room. He finds it reminiscent of past eras of lords, again calling to mind a class system that would put Zaroff at the top.
Rainsford is impressed by all of the elements that make up Zaroff's table. To him it demonstrates that Zaroff is upper class and civilized.
In addition to being impressed by the physical setting and the food, Rainsford is impressed by the knowledge and behavior of his host.
Evidence that Rainsford considers himself civilized
Explanation of how the evidence supports the idea that Rainsford considers himself civilized
Whitney: “Great sport, hunting.”
“The best sport in the world,” agreed Rainsford.
“For the hunter,” amended Whitney. “Not for the jaguar.”
“Don't talk rot, Whitney,” said Rainsford. “You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?” (40)
“The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters.” (40)
“Rainsford, reclining in a steamer chair, indolently puffed on his favorite brier.” (41)
“Don't be alarmed,” said Rainsford, with a smile which he hoped was disarming. I'm no robber. I fell off a yacht.” (43)
We learn that Rainsford considers himself superior to the animals he hunts by his disdain for their feelings.
This quote demonstrates that Rainsford divides the world into hunters (those who are civilized) and the huntees (those who are not civilized and are therefore not superior)
Rainsford is clearly accustomed to a life of wealth and ease, when he can recline on the yacht lazily smoking his favorite pipe.
Rainsford thinks he will be treated better when the person he talks to understands that he is a member of the civilized upper class.
Explanation of how this evidence supports the idea of Zaroff as animalistic
“No animal had a chance with me any more. That is no boast; it is a mathematical certainty. The animal had nothing but his legs and his instinct. Instinct is no match for reason.” (48)
“Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure.” (49)
“Following the path with the sureness of a bloodhound came General Zaroff” (54)
“Even as he touched it, the general sensed his danger and leaped back with the agility of the ape.” (54)
Zaroff sees himself as a superior animal because he has the ability to reason. This is why he finally decided to hunt humans, because he felt they were the only animal that could provide a challenge for his superior hunting skills.
Zaroff believes that it is the right of the strong to use the weak in any way that the strong choose. This idea carries over to his hunting those humans that he considers to be weak and inferior in order to give pleasure to himself.
The general seems to have tracking skills equal to those of a hunting dog.
The general has the speed, agility, and instinct of an animal when he senses that he is in danger.
Evidence that Rainsford demonstrates animalistic tendencies
“What perils that tangle of trees and underbrush might hold for him did not concern Rainsford just then. All he knew was that he was safe from his enemy, the sea, and that utter weariness was on him.” (42)
“A twenty-two...That's odd. It must have been a fairly large animal too. The hunter had his nerve with him to tackle it with a light gun. It's clear that the brute put up a fight.” (43)
'[Rainsford]” executed a series of intricate loops; he doubled on his trail again and again, recalling all the lore of the foxhunt, and all the dodges of the fox.” (53)
Rainsford's impulse was to hurl himself down like a panther...” (53)
“He stepped back from the quicksand a dozen feet or so, and like some huge prehistoric beaver, he began to dig.” (56)
“The hounds raised their voices as they hit the fresh scent. Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels.” (57)
“The general sucked in his breath and smiled. “I congratulate you,” he said. “You have won the game.” Rainsford did not smile. “I am still a beast at bay,” he said in a low, hoarse voice.
Explanation of how this evidence supports the idea of Rainsford as animalistic When Rainsford falls overboard from the yacht, he has to resort to a very basic instinct: survival. He has to fight nature—in this case, the sea—in order to survive, which makes him view the sea as his enemy.
Rainsford recognizes that a large animal—a “brute” as he calls it—has been hunted in the area recently. He sees the hunter as brave for having faced a large animal with a small caliber gun.
Rainsford is now being hunted by Zaroff and using everything he can think of to avoid being found and killed. He specifically remembers how the foxes in a foxhunt would try to avoid the dogs and hunters to save themselves.
Rainsford is acting the way an animal would now that he is being hunted like one.
Rainsford is reacting with instincts that are so deeply ingrained in him that the author describes them as “prehistoric.”
Rainsford finally understands how the animal being hunted feels. At the beginning of the story, he said “who cares” how the hunted animal feels, and now he is feeling it himself.
The general believes that the game is over and they can be civilized once again. Rainsford does not feel that this can happen as long as they are both still living. He intends to fight Zaroff to the death.
Both Zaroff and Rainsford exhibit animalistic tendencies
“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.” (54)
“The cat was coming again to play with the mouse.” (54)
Explanation of how this evidence demonstrates that Zaroff and Rainsford together exhibit animalistic tendencies Rainsford realizes that Zaroff has seemingly inhuman hunting capabilities and that Zaroff is just playing with him so that the game will last longer. Zaroff is thoroughly enjoying being challenged for the first time in a long time (maybe even ever).
Zaroff keeps leaving and coming back to keep the game going.
Student Directions: Re-read the evidence that you collected in the previous graphic organizer.
Select the best evidence to support your argument and record it in the “My Evidence” boxes below.
After you are given time to talk with a partner and share ideas, complete the “Partner's Ideas” boxes.
Looking at your ideas in the “My Evidence” boxes and the evidence in the “Partner's Ideas” boxes, think about what new ideas
you might have and list them in the “New Ideas” boxes.
Finally, answer the question in the “Theme Work” box, connecting the best evidence contributing to the meaning of the work as
a whole or to a theme emerging from the text.
EVIDENCE FROM TEXT
My Evidence that Zaroff considers himself civilized.
EVIDENCE FROM TEXT
My Evidence that Rainsford considers Zaroff civilized.
How does this evidence contribute to the meaning of the work as a whole or to theme?
In “The Most Dangerous Game,” Richard Connell explores the human tendency for survival at all costs. The protagonist, Sanger Rainsford, and the antagonist, General Zaroff, both see themselves as hunters in a world that is divided into two classes, the hunters and the huntees. The situation he creates allows Connell to explore a variety of questions and themes. What happens when a “civilized” person has grandiose ideas about his superiority to other species and other classes of men? What happens when those concepts are put to a life-and death challenge? To what extent will humans revert to animalistic tendencies to survive, and if so, are they still morally superior? In an ironic twist, each hunter transforms into the huntee, and Connell explores the mindsets and actions as this change occurs.
On a yacht bound for Rio de Janeiro, Sanger Rainsford philosophizes with his hunting partner about the great hunting they are about to experience when they pick up the jaguar guns in Rio. When his partner has some qualms about the fear and pain felt by their prospective prey, Rainsford accuses him of being soft. Rainsford tells his partner, “Who cares how a jaguar feels?”(40).
His partner replies, “Perhaps the jaguar does”(40).
To this, Rainsford replies, “This hot weather is making you soft, Whitney. Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees. Luckily you and I are hunters” (40).
Shortly thereafter, Rainsford finds himself in the palatial chateau of General Zaroff, a hunter, who has only one passion in life, and that is to hunt. Zaroff’s philosophy is that “Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure” (49). After tales of the most victorious hunts to this date, Rainsford learns that his “thoughtful and affable host, a true cosmopolite,” (45) plans to turn him into one of his prey. Rainsford fulminates, “Good God, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder”(49).
Rainsford refuses to hunt men with Zaroff; thus he is forced into becoming the prey, the huntee, while Zaroff is the hunter. Zaroff’s baser instincts take over as he searches for Rainsford “with the sureness of a bloodhound” (54).
After a short burst of panic, trying to put distance between himself and Zaroff, Rainsford collects his thoughts and draws upon his experiences in the war and on his past hunting experiences, and he becomes the hunter. Rainsford constructs a Malay man-catcher intended to impale his newfound enemy. Zaroff reacts defensively as a threatened animal, or as the huntee, as he “sensed the danger and leaped back with the agility of an ape” (54).
Now Rainsford draws on animalistic instincts, and getting himself out of the quicksand “like some prehistoric beaver, he began to dig”(56). After building another deadly trap for General Zaroff, Rainsford “crouches” behind a tree and watches as his deadly spike misses the mark and kills one of Zaroff’s dogs. Soon Zaroff continues to hunt, and he returns with a whole pack of dogs. This is when Rainsford knows “how an animal at bay feels”(57) as fear grips him, thus answering the question posed by him to his earlier hunting partner about, “Who cares how a jaguar feels”(40).
As Zaroff, the hunter, closes in on Rainsford, Rainsford dives out into the sea to escape from Zaroff and his hunting dogs, risking all.
Another twist comes when Zaroff returns to his chateau believing that his prey has been killed on the dive into the ocean. Rainsford turns the table on Zaroff and becomes the hunter again. They draw their swords, both as hunters, but for the first time, Zaroff is the weaker animal, the prey, and is killed by Rainsford.
Thus, as each man weaves back and forth between being the hunter and the huntee, Connell mocks the idea that man with his reasoning should disregard the animal world and kill for sport. Rainsford as a dynamic character has had to lose his humanity and rethink his role as the superior species and a civilized character. He had to be put into the “huntee” role in order to grapple with his animalistic instincts for survival and to understand that he is both hunter and huntee, thus gaining compassion for the weaker things of this world.
Note: The examples included in the following two charts are just samples and are not meant to be complete.
Character Communcation. What do you notice about the way that Rainsford communicates? What kind of sentences and syntax does he use? What do you notice about the way that Zaroff communicates? What kinds of sentences and syntax does he use? What do their communication styles reveal about their characters?
My response about Rainsford
Rainsford speaks in short sentences and gets right to the point most of the time.
“I'm Sanger Rainsford of New York. I fell off a yacht. I am hungry.”
What this reveals about Rainsford
This reveals that Rainsford is a person who gets right to the heart of things. He is very practical and straightforward, as opposed to eloquent or sophisticated.
My response about Zaroff
Zaroff uses longer sentences—more complex, more at ease, more in command.
He sometimes uses monologues when he speaks.
“It is a very great pleasure to welcome Mr. Sanger Rainsford, the celebrated hunter, to my home.”
“After the debacle in Russia I left the country, for it was imprudent for an officer of the Tsar to stay there...”
What this reveals about Zaroff
Zaroff is self-centered. His speech shows his desire to feel important and to impress.
Fallacious Reasoning. What evidence can you find in the conversation between the characters of fallacious, or false reasoning? How does the use of fallacious reasoning impact how you feel about the character who uses it? Types of fallacious reasoning to look for include name-calling, either-or fallacy, false cause and effect, stereotyping, loaded language, and begging the question (i.e. circular reasoning).
Type of Fallacious Reasoning
false cause and effect
Example from story
“I had to invent a new animal to hunt.”
“Every day I hunt, and I never grow bored now...”
“Thank you, I'm a hunter, not a murderer.”
How it makes you feel about the character who uses it.
This makes us feel that Zaroff is only concerned about his own happiness.
Again, Zaroff is only concerned about keeping himself happy and about avoiding boredom.
Rainsford is judging the hunting that Zaroff is doing.