In "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, why does the general "study" Rainsford?
My question is about this passage: "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..."
A key word here in this foreboding passage from the narrative of "The Most Dangerous Game" is the word narrowly. Not only is General Zaroff evaluating Rainsford as potential prey, but he has become so distorted in his thinking that he now sees men only as prey. This "narrow" perspective becomes, of course, Zaroff's nemesis as, in his surety of his own superiority, he affords Rainsford a second chance when he spots Rainsford in the tree and turns back so that he can hunt another day. For, as Rainsford shudders in terror, he resolves to not lose his nerve.
It is this "nerve" of Rainsford that Zaroff has underestimated in his narrow appraisal; it is this nerve of Rainsford that alters him into "an animal at bay" who pants "nerve, nerve, nerve" and returns to defeat his hunter in the end.
There is, then, also some situational irony to this passage that foreshadows later events since Zaroff is "studying" Rainsford, but he does not find all the answers to his potential prey.
The general is being characterized as a professional here. Professional what continues to develop as the story continues. We know in general that he is a hunter, but beyond that he is student of nature, human and animal. However, at this point in the story we don't know why.
He does this to instill fear in Rainsford. He is purposely making Rainsford uncomfortable. Rainsford does not yet know the general's complete intentions, but he certainly begins to feel threatened. For the reader, this builds suspense.
Within the context of the story, General Zaroff is doing this to Rainsford because he is "sizing him up." He is analyzing Rainsford, trying to decide what kind of prey he will make. He knows he might be hunting Rainsford later and so he wants to know as much as he can about the man.
I think this is an example of foreshadowing. The author is doing this so that we get a little nervous, so we get the feeling that something bad is going to happen or that something about the general is not as pleasant as it seems.