What caused Rainsford to believe Zaroff knew he was hiding in the Tree? Do you think he was right? Give reasons.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Zaroff, on his knees, studies the ground, shaking his head as though puzzled; then, he straightens up and lights a cigarette. 

[HIs] eyes...were traveling inch by inch up the tree....But the sharp eyes of the hunter stopped before they reached the limb where Rainsford lay; a smile spread over his brown face.  Very deliberately he blew a smoke ring into the air; then he turned...and walked carelessly away...

The casual way in which Zaroff acts suggests that he controls "the game."  He knows Rainsford is hiding in the tree because he sends fragrant smoke upward and stops his eyes short; then he "carelessly" backtracks along the trail he has come. From Zaroff's careless behavior stopping his search and smoking, Rainsford realizes that the general plans on prolonging the game. The use of the word hunter, suggests that Zaroff is still the predator and Rainsford is "an animal at bay," who is  unwilling to risk jumping on him since Zaroff has his pistol in hand.  Rainsford understands the control of the "game" that is Zaroff's  "His first thought made him sick and numb" after descending. The general could easily have killed him in the tree; instead, he merely sends up smoke rings to let Rainsford know that he has been given another day, just for the fun of the hunt--Zaroff is like the fisherman who tosses his catch back for another day. 

ladyvols1's profile pic

ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Rainsford attempts to sleep in a tree.  He hears the cry of a bird and realizes someone is coming.  It is Zaroff.  Rainsford watches Zaroff examine the trail and then slowly rise, shake his head, and light a cigar.  He then looks at the trunk of a tree, raises his eyes slowly up the tree and stops just before the limb that Rainsford is on.  Zaroff looks down, smiles and then turns to walk away.  "The pent-up air burst hotly from Rainsford's lungs. His first thought made him feel sick and numb. The general could follow a trail through the woods at night; he could follow an extremely difficult trail; he must have uncanny powers; only by the merest chance had the Cossack failed to see his quarry." "Rainsford's second thought was even more terrible. It sent a shudder of cold horror through his whole being. Why had the general smiled? Why had he turned back?" "Rainsford did not want to believe what his reason told him was true, but the truth was as evident as the sun that had by now pushed through the morning mists. The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport!" 

Zaroff enjoyed the hunt more than anything.  He didn't want to kill the prey too soon.  He knew Rainsford was there, but he did not want the game to end.  Zaroff was arrogant and believed he was totally in control of the game.

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