How does General Zaroff already know who Rainsford is when he arrives on the island?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the exposition of Connell's story, Rainsford and his friend Whitney speak; Rainsford is obviously a skilled and serious hunter as he is coming to Brazil ("'It will be light in Rio' promised Whitney") to hunt jaguars. However, Rainsford's fortunes take a turn after he falls into the Caribbean Sea's warm waters.

After Ivan discovers Rainsford who has swum to the shore of Shipwreck Island and collapsed, Rainsford is brought to the chateau of the Russian, General Zaroff, to whom Sanger Rainsford introduces himself. Zaroff explains that he recognizes the name,

"I've read your book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet, you see."

Further, at dinner, the general remarks that Rainsford may have been surprised that he has recognized the hunter's name: He has consumed books on hunting published in English, French, and Russian because hunting is his passion. Of course, Rainsford's name is in the books as a renowned hunter.

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sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Zaroff knows who Rainsford is because Zaroff is a well read individual.  Perhaps Zaroff isn't a well rounded reader, but he does admit that he is a voracious reader when it comes to books about hunting.  

"Perhaps," said General Zaroff, "you were surprised that I recognized your name. You see, I read all books on hunting published in English, French, and Russian. I have but one passion in my life, Mr. Rainsford, and it is the hunt."

Rainsford is a world renowned hunter, so it stands to reason that his name has come up in multiple books.  It's Rainsford's hunting prowess that is bringing him south to the Amazon with Whitney in the first place.  Additionally, Rainsford has written his own book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet.  If Zaroff has read "all books" on hunting, then he must have read Rainsford's book too.  

"I've read your book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet, you see."

It's Rainsford's hunting abilities and minor fame that most likely cause Zaroff to explain his new type of prey.  Zaroff seems to want to make a convert of Rainsford, and Zaroff wants Rainsford to go on a hunt with him.  

"I'll wager you'll forget your notions when you go hunting with me. You've a genuine new thrill in store for you, Mr. Rainsford."

Rainsford declines each offer made by Zaroff until Zaroff decides that hunting "with" Rainsford might be fun in a different manner.  

"I wish to go today," said Rainsford. He saw the dead black eyes of the general on him, studying him. General Zaroff's face suddenly brightened.

He filled Rainsford's glass with venerable Chablis from a dusty bottle.

"Tonight," said the general, "we will hunt--you and I."

Zaroff now believes that Rainsford will be an intriguing prey instead of an intriguing hunting partner.  Rainsford will likely be an incredible prey because of how good at hunting he is.  Zaroff is fully aware of Rainsford's abilities and is excited by the idea of hunting Rainsford. 

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