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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell
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What are the primary mental health issues General Zaroff faces in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

A sociopath is an individual who has a personality disorder which may cause extremely anti-social behavior and a lack of any remorse or conscience. Sociopaths are often charming and superficially charming and can be very intelligent. There are many types of sociopaths including serial killers, con artists, rapists, arsonists, terrorists and others who display a complete lack of empathy for the pain they inflict on their victims. General Zaroff fits this description perfectly; he is a ruthless murderer who hunts men on his remote island.

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General Zaroff, the antagonist in Richard Connel's short story "The Most Dangerous Game " is a criminal sociopath. A sociopath has a personality disorder which may cause extremely anti-social behavior and a lack of any remorse or conscience. While on the surface, Zaroff appears to be a cosmopolitan...

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General Zaroff, the antagonist in Richard Connel's short story "The Most Dangerous Game" is a criminal sociopath. A sociopath has a personality disorder which may cause extremely anti-social behavior and a lack of any remorse or conscience. While on the surface, Zaroff appears to be a cosmopolitan and highly civilized individual, he is actually a ruthless murderer who hunts men on his remote island.

When he first meets Rainsford he complains of becoming bored with hunting. He explains his problem:

"They were no match at all for a hunter with his wits about him, and a high-powered rifle. I was bitterly disappointed. I was lying in my tent with a splitting headache one night when a terrible thought pushed its way into my mind. Hunting was beginning to bore me! And hunting, remember, had been my life. I have heard that in America businessmen often go to pieces when they give up the business that has been their life." 

Because Zaroff has no scruples and lacks a conscience he provides himself with "big game" which presents a challenge. He hunts the men he captures when their ships run a ground on the rocky shore along the coast of his island.

Zaroff may also be suffering from the delusion that what he is doing is perfectly legitimate. He claims he is a superior human being preying on lesser sorts who are not worthy of life. He tells Rainsford:

"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels--a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them." 

At the end of the story Zaroff is reading from the works of Marcus Aurelius, confirming his delusion. The Roman emperor and philosopher prided himself on a stoic ideology which focused on virtue and the highest caliber of ethical behavior, far removed from the savagery of the general.   

 

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