What is Zaroff's internal conflict in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

1 Answer | Add Yours

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

General Zaroff is the antagonist in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," and there is no evidence that he feels conflicted about anything in this story. 

When a character wrestles with his own conscience or, perhaps, with God, he experiences internal conflict. Zaroff feels no compunction (no pangs of conscience) and no regret for anything he does which might be considered conflict. 

It is true that Zaroff regrets getting bored with hunting animals, but he describes that as something much less than a conflict:

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!

He goes on to say that he "had no wish to go to pieces" and had to think of something, but that does not really seem like a conflict, either. 

Zaroff's decision to hunt humans instead of animals gives him no conflict whatsoever. He has no qualms at all about tricking ships into crashing into the rocks surrounding his island; instead, he is nearly giddy with excitement when he shows Rainsford how he does it. He has no bad feelings about killing the shipwrecked sailors; in fact, he disdains them as if they are not really human and therefore do not deserve to live. He explains to Rainsford:

That's the trouble with these sailors; they have dull brains to begin with, and they do not know how to get about in the woods. They do excessively stupid and obvious things. It's most annoying. 

He feels nothing at all when he gives Rainsford (and the others) a choice between being hunted/killed in three days and tortured/killed slowly by Ivan; Zaroff will be heartbroken if Rainsford chooses to be tortured rather than hunt, but he experiences no conflict about giving Rainsford two such horrific choices.

Zaroff is not conflicted during the three days of hunting, and he does not seem to feel any kind of internal reaction when Rainsford unexpectedly shows up in his bedroom on the third night. He simply smiles and declares Rainsford the victor in this hunt.

The only moment we could suspect Zaroff has some real internal conflict is when he realizes Rainsford is not content just to be free and intends to kill the general. It happens very quickly both in time and in the story and we cannot be sure, but Zaroff probably had at least a few seconds of regret or conflict or something similar as he faced Rainsford in a fight for his life.

Other than his selfish desire not to be bored and perhaps a moment of conflict just before he is killed, there is no evidence that Zaroff is conflicted about anything he does. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,983 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question