What are physical descriptions, expressions and actions of General Zaroff and Ivan?

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tinicraw's profile pic

tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Ivan the Cossack is the first person Rainsford meets on the island. He is described as a giant in a black uniform with a beard knotted all the way to his waist. He is also deaf and dumb, so he does not talk--he merely stands pointing a gun at Rainsford's heart. Ivan does not smile, he does not move much, and he has no real expression on his face. He reminds Rainsford of a statue. However, Rainsford later learns that Ivan is skilled in the techniques of torture, which seems appropriate for his looks, physique, and demeanor. General Zaroff says that Ivan is "a bit of a savage."

On the other hand, General Zaroff seems to be civilized, educated, and social with his guests. His appearance might symbolize his nature as well. For example, Zaroff is handsome, but the hair on his head is white and his eyebrows and mustache are black. The contrasting colors on Zaroff's face may suggest the conflict in his nature. At first Zaroff seems polite and civilized, but he is really a savage who murders men for sport. The white hair might represent his well-mannered façade, but his black mustache represents his villainy.

General Zaroff's expressions are completely controlled, too. He does not display any angst or feelings of discomfort when discussing the fact that he kills men for sport. There is one time when Rainsford detects a hint of anger in the General, though. Rainsford challenges the General's pride when he says that killing men is not civilized. The response is as follows:

"A trace of anger was in the general's black eyes, but it was there for but a second, and he said, in his most pleasant manner: 'Dear me, what a righteous young man you are!'"

This passage proves that Zaroff is in complete control of his emotions at all times, even if a hint of anger seems to slip. During the hunt, and in the moments before Rainsford kills him, Zaroff presents himself as polite and civilized, but his determination to kill other men suggests otherwise.

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readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Connell has a way with words. So, when he describes general Zaroff, we can picture the general in our minds. According to Connell, the general is a handsome man. He is also tall, past middle age, and white-haired. He also sported a mustache, had sharp facial features, and had a military-quality to him. Most of all he looked and acted like an aristocrat. As for Ivan, he is simply described as a giant of a man, who is extremely strong, a Russian  Cossack. Here is a quote:

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 from which Rainsford had come. 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. 

In terms of expression, here is where it gets more interesting. Zaroff for all his good looks and sophistication possessed an quality that made Rainsford unsettled. According to the text, Zaroff had a way of examining and studying Rainsford. Here is what the text says:

But there was one small trait of the general's that made Rainsford uncomfortable. Whenever he looked up from his plate he found the general studying him, appraising him narrowly.

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