The Gothic elements of the short story create a blood-chilling, eerie mood. From the gargoyle doorknocker to the animal heads as trophies on the wall, the story reeks with elements of the grotesque and sensational. Juxtaposed with this is cosmopolite refineness (James Bond style) as Zaroff pours Rainsford champagne and serves him lavish dinners. The mixture of barbarism and high culture adds to schizophrenic profile of Zaroff, who plays the intermittant roles of gentleman and devil.
Another aspect creating tension in the story is the "no way out" situation Rainsford finds himself in. He is stuck on Zaroff with no way to possibly escape and must meet the hunter on his own ground. Doubling back to the castle instead of staying in the jungle or tempting his chances at sea is Rainford's means to finally reverse the situation and win. By catching Zaroff off guard and unarmed, he finally beats the psychopath hunter at his own game.
The ambivalent role of Rainsford at the end of the story is also disquietening. Although killing Zaroff in pure self-defense, Rainford feels no remorse but sleeps very soundly that same night. If Rainsford has indeed escaped bodily harm, can the same be said of his soul? Will he 'calll it a day' and go home or will he be tempted to stay and rule the island as his own?