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Zaroff has become jaded by his life. As a general he has probably been involved in many battles; having done so and having seen men slaughtered just for the personal gains of others has, perhaps, led him to believe that a life is not valuable: "I refuse to believe that so modern...a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your experiences in the war--" he tells Rainsford. Zaroff goes on to criticize the idea of hunting a man as murder by calling it naive and mid-Victorian, saying that life is only for the strong. Zaroff further justifies his "hunting" by explaining that he only hunts "the scum of the earth--sailors from tramps ships..."
Since Zaroff has reduced life to the survival of the fittest/strongest, he feels the need to reassure himself that he is the fittest. So, he creates the hunt on his island away from civilization in which he probably no longer has any faith after being in the killing fields of war.
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