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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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Describe General Zaroff's appearance and personality in "The Most Dangerous Game."

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General Zaroff, in "The Most Dangerous Game," is a tall, middle-aged man with white hair and a black mustache, described as being singularly handsome and aristocratic. He has dark eyes, high cheekbones, and a sharply cut nose. Despite his cultured demeanor and appreciation for finer things, Zaroff reveals a disturbing enjoyment for hunting humans, showing a malevolent side beneath his civility. He is hospitable and courteous, even when planning to hunt his guest.

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The narrator describes Zaroff's physical appearance when Rainsford first sees the general descend the marble stairs of his extravagant chateau. General Zaroff is depicted as a tall, slender, middle-aged man with white hair. The narrator mentions that Zaroff is "singularly handsome" with a "bizarre quality" about his face. General Zaroff has dark eyes with thick eyebrows, high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, and a black mustache. Rainsford also believes that the general resembles an aristocrat. As Rainsford and General Zaroff begin to eat their meal, Zaroff slowly reveals his affinity for hunting humans, which is appalling to Rainsford. Although Zaroff is a talented, fanatical hunter, he also enjoys the finer things in life. He is an avid reader, a collector of fine wines, and he enjoys many modern amenities throughout his exclusive chateau on Ship-Trap Island. He is also relatively hospitable and courteous to Rainsford, despite the fact that he plans on hunting him. Zaroff sees himself as a Renaissance man who does not harbor "romantic ideas about the value of human life." Underneath General Zaroff's air of civility and cultured personality, he is a fanatical, malevolent murderer who enjoys hunting defenseless humans.

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Although we know little about Sanger Rainsford's physical appearance, we do know that General Zaroff

was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as night...

Rainsford describes Zaroff as "singularly handsome" with a "bizarre quality" to his face. His eyes were also black, and he presented an "aristocratic" bearing with his 

high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face...

When Zaroff smiled, he bore red lips and "pointed" teeth that often included a long, perfumed cigarette. We can assume that Zaroff and Rainsford were about the same size, since Zaroff provided him with clothing (" 'my clothes,' " Zaroff says) that proved to be a satisfactory fit.

(No doubt the gigantic Ivan was much larger than either of the other men; he was "the largest man" Rainsford had ever seen.)

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Zaroff's personality, I believe, can best be described as calculating. Although a highly civilized man who has all the best pleasures of the world in food and drink, it took him no time to begin sizing up Rainsford as if Rainsford were a common simple animal. Zaroff would also demonstrate a sense of equity to his prey giving them good clothes, a set of rules, and the opportunity for a good night's rest before he played the most dangerous game with them.

Zaroff is a General, thus I think you could imagine the military clean cut features of a man. He is shorter than Rainsford and is Russian. A white man, he is often depicted in literature anthologies with a handlebar-type mustache. I see him smoking a long cigarette and alway appearing in beautiful fabrics and expensive clothes, except on the hunt.

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What are ten characteristics of General Zaroff?

When Rainsford arrives at the home of Zaroff, the narrator begins with a physical description.

Zaroff's looks are striking. He has bright white hair and black eyes, eyebrows, and mustache.

The general is obviously quite wealthy. The chateau, the hand-tailored clothes from London, and the furnishings in his home all reflect luxury.

Rainsford's host is commanding. He insists that Rainsford follow Ivan to the house and change into the clothes he provides.

General Zaroff is self-aware. He identifies himself and Ivan as Cossacks, remarking that they are a bit "savage."

General Zaroff is elegant. He is tall and slender with erect posture and is wearing evening clothes when Rainsford arrives, even though his house is in the middle of nowhere and he has no other guests.

Zaroff is presumptuous. He tells Rainsford "you want food, clothes, rest." He doesn't ask; he tells.

Worldliness is another of the general's traits. He has a "cultivated" voice and imported goods from all over the world. He is well-travelled and reads in three languages.

Zaroff is monomaniacal. His obsession is hunting.

He is remorseless. He speaks of killing all kinds of animals and his desire to experience the danger and challenges of hunting men without apology.

And finally, General Zaroff is a racist. He tells Rainsford "I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships—lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels[...]."

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What are ten characteristics of General Zaroff?

1. General Zaroff is a sophisticated man with a refined taste in literature, music, and wine.

2. General Zaroff is a fanatic, who is obsessed with hunting.

3. General Zaroff is a maniacal man who murderers innocent, defenseless humans on his island.

4. The general is a talented, skilled hunter.

5. Zaroff is a cultured man, who has traveled all over the world and enjoys the finer things in life.

6. General Zaroff is a callous man with no regard for human life . . . which is evident in the fact that he hunts humans.

7. Zaroff is also a competitive man and looks forward to competing against Rainsford in the hunt.

8. General Zaroff is violent and takes pleasure in murdering defenseless humans.

9. Zaroff is also intelligent and mentions to Rainsford that he has read all of his books and is capable of speaking different languages.

10. General Zaroff is also a composed, stoic individual. He seems to control his outward emotions throughout the short story.

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What are ten characteristics of General Zaroff?

General Zaroff, the antagonist in Richard Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game," should be considered a "static" character because he never changes over the course of the story. He is, however, a "round" character because he has several distinguishing characteristics:

  • astute: Zaroff is quite capable of accurately assessing people and situations. When he is dining with Rainsford he seems to be sizing up his guest.
  • narcissistic: Zaroff has an obsessive interest in himself as judged by his conversation where he basically discusses his life and his passion for hunting.
  • sociopathic: Zaroff has a mental disorder which is displayed in his anti-social behavior and lack of conscience. He finds it perfectly just that he is able to hunt men.
  • shrewd: When Zaroff escaped Russia after the revolution he was smart enough to invest in American securities so he could sustain his lavish lifestyle.
  • educated: Zaroff is well-read with a large library including every book on hunting, and he is portrayed as reading the works of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius toward the end of the story.
  • cosmopolitan: Rainsford notes that Zaroff was a "cosmopolite" because he was quite sophisticated in his clothes, from the finest tailor in London, and in the fine furnishings of his chateau, procured from all over the world. 
  • skilled: Zaroff has grown to be a skilled hunter, so much so that animals posed no challenge and so he began hunting men. He seems to easily track Rainsford over the most difficult of trails.
  • barbaric: In his diabolical practice of hunting down men, Zaroff is truly a barbarian. It is ironic that such a cultured and educated man would resort to such barbarism.
  • godlike: Zaroff holds the power of life and death over the men he hunts and so has become like a god.
  • passionate: Above all, Zaroff is passionate about his hunting. He could not abide his growing boredom with the sport, so he went to great lengths to produce a new type of hunting.
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What are some character traits for General Zaroff?

General Zaroff is the antagonist in this story, so most character traits that are associated with him are not positive. I'd like to go a different route with this question, though. I would like to focus on Zaroff's positive characteristics. It's how Zaroff twists those positives that make him such a great antagonist.

First, General Zaroff is a calm and not easily flustered man. He puts his own life at risk when hunting animals, and his life is even more at risk when he hunts humans; however, he is completely calm when on the hunt. Even at the end of the story when Rainsford jumps off of the cliff, Zaroff essentially shrugs and moves on.

When the general and his pack reached the place by the sea, the Cossack stopped. For some minutes he stood regarding the blue-green expanse of water. He shrugged his shoulders. Then be sat down, took a drink of brandy from a silver flask, lit a cigarette, and hummed a bit from Madame Butterfly.

That calmness is also displayed in his conversations with Rainsford. Rainsford flat-out calls Zaroff a murderer, but Zaroff doesn't even bat an eye at the accusation. When a reader looks at the descriptions of the conversation, Rainsford is saying things "hotly" or "stiffly." He's agitated and angry. Zaroff, on the other hand, doesn't get any colorful descriptions. His quotes end with "he answered," "he said," etc. He's utterly calm. He's even calm right before Rainsford kills him.

The general made one of his deepest bows. "I see," he said. "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford."

Zaroff is creative. Granted, his creativity is morally suspect, but he does come up with a creative solution to his problem. Zaroff is bored with hunting regular big game. He decides that he needs a form of prey that doesn't rely only on instinct. He needs his prey to be able to reason, so he decides that humans will be his new prey. He then implements an effective plan to lure human prey to his island. Essentially, Zaroff has figured out a way to stock his island with prey.

Zaroff is intelligent and experienced. Rainsford comes up with all kinds of different things to throw Zaroff off of his trail. Rainsford even sets up traps, but none of it works. Zaroff is too knowledgeable about hunting to be fooled. Zaroff is also well-read. Zaroff admits that he has read Rainsford's book. The comment is made in such a way that it gives readers the impression that Zaroff has read many other books too. Additionally, Zaroff takes Rainsford to his library and not his trophy room.

"And now," said the general, "I want to show you my new collection of heads. Will you come with me to the library?"

In a twisted way, some of Zaroff's actions give the superficial appearance of being kind. For instance, he gives his human prey the opportunity to be as physically fit as possible before the hunt--but only because he wants the hunt to be a challenge.

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What is general Zaroff's personality like in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

General Zaroff is a sadistic, epicurean lunatic. He enjoys killing, which should be obvious from the fact that he had been a Russian general and must have been responsible for the slaughter of many thousands of men in battles. He is thoroughly selfish and lives for his own pleasure. His principal pleasure is not just in killing human beings but subjecting them to psychological torture by giving them a faint hope of escape. Without his refined manners, gourmet tastes, and luxurious home, Zaroff would come across as nothing but a monster. The author of the story had to give him the offsetting traits of culture and epicureanism in order to humanize him. No doubt Zaroff is extremely intelligent. In this respect he resembles his "guest" Sanger Rainsford. They are both intelligent, well-educated men of the world. They even seem to like each other in some strange way. This is because each man recognizes himself in the other, as if each is looking at his own reflection in a mirror. What each recognizes is the love of killing--although Rainsford has never thought of killing another human being until he met Zaroff.

Ernest Hemingway wrote about killing wild animals in his book Green Hills of Africa (1935) and notably in two short stories: "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Hemingway had a gift for making the reader identify with the killer, making the reader feel the pleasure it could be in killing an animal, especially a dangerous one. Hemingway especially loved bullfighting because there was a great deal of pain inflicted on the bulls and finally death by the sword of the matador; but at the same time there was some danger to the men who were doing the killing, as well as to the unfortunate horses of the mounted picadors.

It was Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States from 1901 to 1909, who popularized the subject of big-game hunting. He wrote about his own adventures in Africa right around the turn of the century. At that time it was a rich man's sport, and people did not feel much pity for the animals because few of the animals were killed. Now with all the trophy animals on the endangered species list a great many people feel that killing animals for pleasure is disgusting. Therefore a contemporary reader's attitude towards General Zaroff would be different from when the story was published in 1924.

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What is general Zaroff's personality like in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

The characterization in the short story "The Most Dangerous Game" is of great importance to the understanding of the story. Zaroff is a "Cossack". He is an elitist who loves the finer things in life, shown in the way he had adorned his home, the clothes he wears, the wine and liqueur he drinks, and the food he eats. This elitism is also shown in his lack of respect for human life. He hunts people because they afford "good sport". He states this when he says that "life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift?" 

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Please describe General Zaroff.

In Richard Connell's classic short story "The Most Dangerous Game," General Zaroff is described thusly:

"an erect, slender man in evening clothes" who has a "cultivated voice marked by a slight accent"

AND

man was singularly handsome; his second was that there was an original, almost bizarre quality about the general's face. He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night...His eyes, too, were black and very bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face--the face of a man used to giving orders, the face of an aristocrat.

As such, Zaroff is an archetypal villain, a combination of the following:

  • The DEVIL: the charming fiend, he gives people what he thinks they deserve.
  • The EVIL GENIUS: the malevolent mastermind, he loves to show off his superior intelligence.
  • The SADIST: the savage predator, he enjoys cruelty for its own sake. Violence and psychological brutality are games to this man; and he plays those games with daring and skill.
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Please describe General Zaroff.

General Zaroff is a Russian or, more precisely, a Cossack.  This means that he is from an ethnic group that lived in the Russian Empire and had a reputation for being very brutal.

We are told that he is quite tall, and really very handsome.  However, there is something about him that seems bizarre.  His hair is pure white, which shows that he is getting on in years.  At the same time, though, his eyebrows and mustache are dark black.  So are his eyes.

As a person, Zaroff is very sophisticated.  He likes to do stuff like humming bits of opera and he tries to act very cultured.

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Describe General Zaroff's personality.

The author fashioned General Zaroff to fit the plot. The story is about a man who is being hunted like an animal. There has to be a hunter. But what kind of a man would make a practice of hunting and killing human beings? He has to be one who is used to killing people. That suggests a military man--but not an American, because American readers would not like to think of their soldiers killing innocent civilians for sport! He would have to be rich enough to own his own private preserve for hunting. An island is a good setting because it makes it impossible for the prey to escape. But why is he living away from his own country? And what country? A military officer who is not living in his own county might be a Russian who had to flee from the Bolsheviks. The story was written in the 1920s, shortly after the Russian Revolution. A great many upper-class Russians were fleeing to foreign places in those days. If the story had been written in the late 1940s, the author, Richard Connell, would almost certainly have made the hunter a high-ranking Nazi SS officer. Being rich, Zaroff has cultivated a taste for luxuries. There isn't much he can buy on an island, but he can indulge in gourmet food and wines. He is definitely a sadist. He is an aristocrat, an elitist, undoubtedly a strong support of the Czar. No doubt he was responsible for all kinds of cruelty in his home country. Since he must spend a lot of his time alone, he has acquired a broad education from reading. He must have also traveled a great deal and met many interesting people. He is sophisticated. He undoubtedly knows several languages, including French. His English is very good, although he does not say where he learned it. He seems very intelligent--which explains why he is so easily bored. If a man can get bored with hunting tigers, he must bore easily. Zaroff is a fictitious character created to fill a plot need. He is just barely believable. He requires what Coleridge called "a willing suspension of disbelief." That is to say: Can we believe that such a person could actually exist anywhere in the world?

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Describe General Zaroff's personality.

In "The Most Dangerous Game," General Zaroff is portrayed as a complete savage, albeit one with a veneer of civilized manners overlaying his savagery.

Zaroff's savagery is, of course, on full display in his hunting of human beings and his complete lack of any sympathy for them.

At the same time, he has some superficial aspects of civilization about him.  He has (affects?) aristocratic manners and fancies himself superior to the common run of people, especially such riffraff as the sailors he traps and hunts.

Overall, then, Zaroff acts (in trivial ways) like a sophisticated and civilized man, but his more important actions show him to be a ruthless killer with no other aspect to his personality.

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