General Zaroff is a Russian or, more precisely, a Cossack. This means that he is from an ethnic group that lived in the Russian Empire and had a reputation for being very brutal.
We are told that he is quite tall, and really very handsome. However, there is something about him that seems bizarre. His hair is pure white, which shows that he is getting on in years. At the same time, though, his eyebrows and mustache are dark black. So are his eyes.
As a person, Zaroff is very sophisticated. He likes to do stuff like humming bits of opera and he tries to act very cultured.
In Richard Connell's classic short story "The Most Dangerous Game," General Zaroff is described thusly:
"an erect, slender man in evening clothes" who has a "cultivated voice marked by a slight accent"
man was singularly handsome; his second was that there was an original, almost bizarre quality about the general's face. He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night...His eyes, too, were black and very bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face--the face of a man used to giving orders, the face of an aristocrat.
As such, Zaroff is an archetypal villain, a combination of the following:
- The DEVIL: the charming fiend, he gives people what he thinks they deserve.
- The EVIL GENIUS: the malevolent mastermind, he loves to show off his superior intelligence.
- The SADIST: the savage predator, he enjoys cruelty for its own sake. Violence and psychological brutality are games to this man; and he plays those games with daring and skill.