That General Zaroff is an ominous man is foreshadowed with the discussion of Whitney and Rainsford in the first paragraphs of the story as they speak of Ship-Trap Island's having an "evil name among seafaring men." Then, once Rainsford has swum ashore from his inadvertent plunge into the sea, and the gigantic Ivan comes upon him, Sanger Rainsford is brought before the general, whose face appears "bizarre" to Rainsford, with his white hair contrasted against ebony eyebrows and bright black eyes. When Rainsford is escorted to dinner, and sits at a beautifully appointed table, he begins to find the general "a most thoughtful and affable host." However, his opinion soon chages and he perceives Zaroff as a dangerous man and, later, as a formidable adversary.
1.The general explains that there is no thrill in hunting big game such as tigers. "I live for danger," he says and adds that he has "invented a new sensation." Explaining that he was born to be a hunter: "My whole live has been one prolonged hunt." But, after hunting all kinds of big game, Zaroff, tells Rainsford, he became bored because hunting had become too easy. So, he "invented a new animal,...the ideal animal," implying that he hunts men. Thus, the general knows no limits when he wants to satisfy himself.
2.When Rainsford condemns "cold-blooded murder," the general laughs, and calls his guest's ideas "mid-Victorian," saying "doubtless you had Puritan ancestors. Further, he tells Rainsford,
Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if need be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure.
The general, therefore, has no scruples. His own satisfaction takes precedence over ethics and morality.
3. Zaroff, then, reveals that the island is called Ship-Trap Island because he has laid a trap by creating the illusion of a channel with lights that deceive seamen. So, not only is he a cruel, self-serving man, but he is deceptive and cunning.
A dangerous, cruel, selfish, and cunning man, General Zaroff becomes the predator of Rainsford, who finds himself "a beast at bay."