It is clear from his first entrance that Zaroff is an elegant, refined man. He is described as "an erect, slender man in evening clothes" who speaks in a "cultivated voice marked by a slight accent" and in a manner that gives his speech "added precision and deliberateness." At first, General Zaroff therefore appears to be quite the gentleman, entertaining Rainsford in his "palatial chateau" and swapping hunting stories, but of course, he shows his "darker" side when he reveals his latest "game" of choice - humans.
It is this chillingly evil side that comes to dominate the story, as we realise he has fashioned Ship-Trap Island to do exactly as its name suggests. He places false lights to tempt ships in to a false channel where the unfortunate ships will be crushed by "giant rocks with razor edges" which "crouch like a sea monster with wide-open jaws."
Interestingly, once the "game" has begun, Zaroff plays with Rainsford, letting him go three times, before the finale. From Zaroff's perspective, the "strong" are able to use the "weak" for their own pleasure and enjoyment. His justification of the "game" is interesting to observe:
"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 please. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not?"
Power and skill, according to Zaroff, obviously give him the right to hunt as he wishes. What is interesting about this story is how the description of him as an urbane, civilised and intelligent man stands in brutal contrast to Zaroff's propensity to kill and murder.