In Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game, why would Zaroff refer to shipwrecked sailors as specimens?
In Richard Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game, General Zaroff is a virulently racist psychopath whose sense of racial superiority is matched only by his sense of superiority relative to other species. As with many American sportsmen heavily influenced by Biblical scriptures that purport to "give" to mankind dominion over all non-human species, Zaroff is convinced of the righteousness of his views. When Sanger Rainsford is first led into the general's dining hall, he is struck by the many displays of the general's kills: "About the hall were mounted heads of many animals--lions, tigers, elephants, moose, bears; larger or more perfect specimens Rainsford had never seen." That Zaroff places himself above non-human species is no surprise; more alarming is his open display of racism relative to other human beings, starting with his Russian servant, Ivan. Introducing this silent but huge and menacing figure, General Zaroff informs Rainsford:
"Ivan is an incredibly strong fellow," remarked the general, "but he has the misfortune to be deaf and dumb. A simple fellow, but, I'm afraid, like all his race, a bit of a savage."
Whereas Rainsford shares Zaroff's love of hunting and sense of superiority over the animals they hunt, he is alarmed by his host's objectification of humans as well. To Zaroff, people of other ethnicities are no more deserving of his respect than the animals he hunts. Referring to the stranded sailors he is holding prisoner, Zaroff notes the following:
"We'll visit my training school," smiled the general. "It's in the cellar. I have about a dozen pupils down there now. They're from the Spanish bark San Lucar that had the bad luck to go on the rocks out there. A very inferior lot, I regret to say. Poor specimens and more accustomed to the deck than to the jungle."
Zaroff refers to these human beings as "specimens" because he views them as subhuman. For this murderous psychopath, non-Anglo-Saxon humans are inferior species who he dehumanizes in order to justify hunting them like animals.