In Richard Edward Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game, is Zaroff a round or a flat character?

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There is really very little to suggest that the character of General Zaroff in Richard Edward Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game is multidimensional or "round." On the contrary, despite the author's attempts at depicting a refined, almost elegant individual ("In a cultivated voice marked by a slight accent that gave it added precision and deliberateness . . ."), Zaroff is a rather flat, or two-dimensional, character whose pursuit of game, including humans, marks the totality of what is known about him. While Connell continues to emphasize his antagonist's (of course, the reader does not yet identify Zaroff as an antagonist; on the contrary, Rainsford is initially treated well) obvious wealth and seeming magnanimity, the character follows a somewhat linear progression, evolving quickly from savior to villain as he sets forth the plan for hunting Rainsford like a wild animal.

While it is only belatedly revealed that Zaroff intends to hunt Rainsford like he would an animal in the jungle, the presence of Ivan, Zaroff's Russian servant, should serve as a warning that Ivan's master is anything but entirely benevolent. Rainsford's first encounter with the deaf-mute giant involves the appearance of a weapon: "The man's only answer was to raise with his thumb the hammer of his revolver." A more obvious indication of what lies ahead for Rainsford, however, involves the conversation he has with Whitney aboard the boat in the story's opening passages. Note, in the following exchange, the two men's discussion of the forbidding island that they must pass on the way to their destination:

"The place has a reputation--a bad one."

"Cannibals?" suggested Rainsford.

"Hardly. Even cannibals wouldn't live in such a God-forsaken place."

A clearly wealthy individual with a huge, deaf-mute, gun-carrying servant on an island with a reputation such as this one can be assumed to be of questionable character. This one, General Zaroff, is of questionable character, but he is definitely not multi-dimensional.

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jdslinky's profile pic

jdslinky | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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In "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, General Zaroff is a flat (static) character because he doesn't change throughout the story. He remains committed to hunting, even if he has to trap people on his island to up the ante.

Zaroff confides in Rainsford that hunting had become too boring for him. "...hunting had ceased to be what you call a 'sporting proposition.' It had become too easy. I always got my quarry. Always. There is no greater bore than perfection," (7). Because of the boredom he suffered hunting animals, he decided that hunting humans would be better.

"No other hunting compares with it for an instant. Every day I hunt, and I never grow bored now, for I have quarry with which I can match my wits," (7). Zaroff never changes his opinion on the act of hunting humans, even though Rainsford is horrified by his admittance: "Hunting? General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder," (7).

In the end, Zaroff hunts Rainsford, and Rainsford outsmarts him. Yet, even in death, Zaroff is proud of the "game," proving he is a flat character. "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed," (15).

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