In "The Most Dangerous Game," how do the characters Zaroff and Rainsford display symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Post Traumatic Stess Disorder is characterized by feelings of anxiety, helplessness, disorientation, and sense of being trapped.  Certainly, the character of Sanger Rainsford, who is made to become the prey of General Zaroff's "most dangerous game" experiences the symptoms of this disorder.  When, for instance he sets out the first day, Rainsford uses his skills to create a difficult trail to follow.  As he hides on the limb of a tree, he is amazed to see Zaroff discovering his path. However, when the Cossack reaches the tree where Rainsford hides, he prevents his eyes from traveling up the trunk. It is then that Rainsford realizes with terror that the General is "playing with him."  In his helplessness, the terrorized Rainsford tells himself, "I will not lose my nerve.  I will not." 

During the next day's hunt, Rainsford constructs a Burmese tiger pit into which one of Zaroff's dogs falls and is impaled.  Seeing this, the General calls to Rainsford, congratulating him, "Again you score....Thank you for a most amusing evening."  On the following morning, Rainsford is awakened by a sound that

...made him know that he had new things to learn about fear.

As his mind works frantically against the baying of the pursuing hounds after only Ivan fell victim to Rainsford's last trap, Rainsford experiences helplessness, "Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels."  But, he reaches the sea and leaps into it in his desperation.

Unlike Rainsford, who has such fears, General Zaroff enjoys his game with his new victim of Ship-Trap Island.  For, he deliberately stops looking for Rainsford the first day; then when he knows Rainsford is trapped on the second day, he leaves him again, smiling and thanking his "prey" for an amusing day.  Only when Rainsfor makes his final escape into the sea and returns to the General's bedroom does the Cossack sense any fear.  But, in a way, he relishes this sensation as part of the danger and thrill of his game. 

The general sucked in his breath and smiled.  "I congratulate you,....You have won the game."

Because his words are complimentary, acknowledging Rainsford's victory, General Zaroff does not appear fearful.  Instead, he exhibits further confidence that he can kill Rainsford with his sword as he says, "Splendid!  One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds....On guard, Rainsford...."

Therefore, it does not appear that Zaroff experiences any of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


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