What effect does the lengthy description of Zaroff's chateau have upon the story, "The Most Dangerous Game"?
The detailed description serves to enhance the already tense atmosphere and creates an aura of mystery and intrigue. Furthermore, the author creates an environment similar to that of a Gothic horror story. Connell, for example, refers to the chateau as "a lofty structure with pointed towers plunging upward into the gloom;" he also says that it has "shadowy outlines." Additionally, he mentions that the gate is tall, has iron spikes, and that the "massive door" had "a leering gargoyle for a knocker." The descriptions are also apparently used to interest the reader and draw him or her further into the story.
The portrayal of the chateau as an enormous building set in such an alien landscape also makes both the narrator and reader aware of the fact that its owner must be a person of significance, both in material terms and in stature. This inference, in itself, makes it obvious that the owner must be a formidable and powerful character. Whomever Rainsford meets beyond the massive door will surely be someone remarkable. This is confirmed when Ivan, General Zaroff's manservant, confronts Rainsford; Rainsford soon after meets and then converses with the General himself.
When Sanger Rainsford later outwits his main adversary, the General, the extended description serves to display the great reward Rainsford has won. By defeating and killing the General, Rainsford has not only managed to save his own life, he has, in all probability, also succeeded in gaining what once belonged to General Zaroff.
The image of the majestic chateau mounted upon formidable cliffs seems a mirage to Rainsford after his desperate swim to shore. For, here on an island of the Caribbean is a castle from the other side of the world. But, yet, there is something sinister in it which foreshadows dangers ahead for Sanger Rainsford because of the highs cliff upon which it is placed, the "medieval magnificence" of it that suggests the base, cruel image of General Zaroff, whose many animals that he has shot are stuffed and mounted on the walls as "[A]t the great table the general was sitting alone."
Then, in contrast to these images, there is the refined meal that is served Rainsford.
"We do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here.
And, there is the presence of General Zaroff, who is in evening dress and appears to be a cosmopolitan, but speaks of his many conquests and analytical mind.
Certainly, the sophistication of the table settings and the appearance of the general's chateau create a munificence and worldliness that belie the true nature of the antagonist. This description also foreshadows what is to come as Rainsford's climbing of the cliff is some task.