In "The Most Dangerous Game," what does "affable" mean?
The word "affable" derives from the Latin verbaffari, meaning "to speak to." Richard Edward Connell, author of "The Most Dangerous Game," uses this word to describe Rainsford's feelings about his host General Zaroff when they have first met.
He was finding the general a most thoughtful and affable host, a true cosmopolite. 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.
The author avoids saying that Rainsford likes or trusts his host; he is too worldly himself to trust anyone on such short acquaintance. The word "affable" only suggests that the general is "easy to speak to," or easy to get along with.
The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Dictionary, states:
Affableespecially fits a person who is easy to approach and difficult to anger.
The author of the story chose the word "affable" judiciously. He did not wish to suggest that Rainsford was taken in by the general's cordiality and generosity. The general is appraising him, feeling him out, and he is doing the same thing with the general. There is a surface affability and an underlying suspicion and rivalry which will intensify throughout the story. At this point Rainsford does not realize what terrible danger he is in.