General Zaroff

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Extended Character Analysis

General Zaroff is the wealthy, hunting-obsessed owner of Ship-Trap island. He identifies himself as a Cossack—a member of a Russian ethnic group that remained loyal to the Russian monarchy and comprised the majority of its military force. He and Ivan fled Russia after “the debacle,” implied to be the 1917 February Revolution, which overthrew the Russian monarchy. General Zaroff and Ivan were both supporters of “the White Czar”—Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia.

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Despite having fled Russia, General Zaroff makes great efforts to maintain his veneer of aristocratic civility, serving borscht for dinner and importing other amenities from his home country. When Rainsford first encounters Zaroff, Zaroff is a charming and gracious host. He presents himself as a dignified, educated, and aristocratic man. However, his outward presentation contrasts with his internal penchant for violence and cruelty. Connell uses this contrast to suggest that the trappings of civilization do little to suppress humanity’s more violent tendencies. Indeed, big-game hunting was a fashionable pastime amongst the upper classes, suggesting that the pervasive trophy hunting culture of the early 20th century may actually promote and normalize violence.

As Zaroff and Rainsford talk over dinner, Zaroff reveals that he believes he was born to be a hunter. Hunting is his passion, and his growing boredom with big-game hunting resulted in his decision to hunt humans. He claims that humans are the only animals capable of reason and therefore make the best game. The challenge posed by hunting another rational creature reinvigorated Zaroff’s love for hunting.

Zaroff possesses a skewed sense of morality that highlights the flaws in Rainsford’s beliefs. Both men believe that hunters are inherently superior to their prey and that there exists a natural hierarchy that places rational, intelligent hunters over instinct-driven animals. However, while Rainsford still maintains a distinction between humans and supposedly inferior animals, Zaroff has come to view himself as the ultimate hunter and all other beings as potential...

(The entire section contains 513 words.)

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Sanger Rainsford