How is Zaroff civilized and how is he not in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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ms-t's profile pic

ms-t | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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In "The Most Dangerous Game" Zaroff is civilized in the house he lives in, that he dresses formally for dinner, and generally follows all the social conventions of what is polite and correct in conducting oneself with regards to manners and decorum.

Zaroff is decided uncivilized in his treatment of his fellow human beings in that he hunts them down and kills them for sport.  Zaroff has justified his hunting and feels no remorse for his actions.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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General Zaroff is civilized in his knowledge of history and other areas, in his social manners, and in his tastes for food and wine and dress; he is uncivilized in his attitude that men can be hunted as game.

--General Zaroff is civilized in the sense that he is well-educated with refined tastes in food and other things; also, he possesses the modern conveniences such as electricity and a beautiful chateau with its "medieval magnificence." The evening suit that Rainsford is provided has come from a London tailor "who ordinarily cut and sewed for none below the rank of duke."
At dinner Rainsford is served borsch, a rich, red soup that is "dear to the Russian palate."

Half apologetically General Zaroff said, "We do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here. Please forgive any lapses.....Do you think the champagne has suffered from its long ocean trip?"

Even when Zaroff describes his "most dangerous game" to Rainsford, he proffers a gentleman's agreement of allowing his "quarry" to go free after three days if he survives. He promises to keep this verbal contract, and he also expects the other party to promise to make no mention of him or Ship Trap Island.
Zaroff also claims to be civilized because he trains the men who will be hunted.

"We try to be civilized here....I treat these visitors with every consideration. They get plenty of good food and exercise. They get into splendid physical condition."

--General Zaroff is uncivilized in the sense that he prefers to "hunt more dangerous game," game that is later revealed to be men. He tells Rainsford, "I live for danger." Regular game has become uninteresting, he adds, because he enjoys the "problems of the chase." And, since traditional means of hunting are too ordinary, Zaroff has chosen to hunt men as his game because they offer more of a challenge. 
If his guest prefers not to engage in this dangerous game, he is handed over to Ivan, whose "idea of sport" is not as "diverting" as the general's; it is totally uncivilized and brutal.

waaveerly's profile pic

waaveerly | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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Zaroff presents somewhat of an oxymoron. While being an extremely “civilized” higher class man in the sense that he is familiar with aspects of high culture, he gives a different meaning to the word civilized not the one most cultures see it as today.

“I have electricity; we try to be civilized here.”

In most cases civilized relates to social order by treating others well and following laws. The General sees the term civilization as keeping up with time and its technology. He believes that men are no more important than animals, if they are able to be hunted than they will be hunted.

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