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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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General Zaroff's characteristics, ambitions, and outcomes in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game"


General Zaroff is a sophisticated yet ruthless hunter who seeks the ultimate thrill by hunting humans on his isolated island. His ambition to find a prey that can challenge his skills leads him to Rainsford, but his overconfidence and sadistic nature ultimately result in his downfall when Rainsford turns the tables and kills him.

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What are General Zaroff's accomplishments in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

General Zaroff is a Cossack who grew up in a wealthy, landed family somewhere in the Crimea, an area which has gone back and forth between Russia and the Ukraine (it is currently part of Russia). As landed gentry it was expected that Zaroff would become an officer in the Russian military. He notes that for a time he commanded a division of cavalry and, as part of the upper class, fought against the Bolsheviks during the civil war which followed the 1917 revolution. He fails to mention any specific accomplishment as a soldier, but he does go into detail about his outstanding ability as a hunter. He tells Rainsford that he killed his first bear when he was only ten years old. Afterward, hunting became Zaroff's main passion in life. He talks of hunting in every region of he world and that he was able to fund his adventures investing in "American securities" after those loyal to the czar were defeated in the civil war:

"Naturally, I continued to hunt—grizzlies in your Rockies, crocodiles in the Ganges, rhinoceroses in East Africa. It was in Africa that the Cape buffalo hit me and laid me up for six months. As soon as I recovered I started for the Amazon to hunt jaguars, for I had heard they were unusually cunning."

In fact, Zaroff becomes such an accomplished hunter that he eventually grows bored with the sport because every time he hunts he knows he will win. This is why he purchases the island where he adopts a new form of hunting involving the pursuit of men who are shipwrecked on his remote island. In the end, despite all his skill, he is unable to defeat Rainsford and when the two meet at the end of the story, Zaroff is killed by the American, who describes himself as a "beast at bay."

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What made General Zaroff happy in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

In "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, what gives General Zaroff the most pleasure is hunting men. Long ago he tired of hunting non-human animals because none of them could outsmart him. Because a man can think and strategize more than any other animal ever could, he is a worthy opponent for General Zaroff. When Rainsford shows how appalled he is about hunting men, Zaroff answers,

"Precisely," said the general. "That is why I use them. It gives me pleasure. They can reason, after a fashion. So they are dangerous."

Zaroff is especially happy that he will get to hunt Rainsford because he is beginning to feel bored with the sailors he has been hunting. They are not as smart as he would like, and he is sure Rainsford will be a much tougher opponent.

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In Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," what are General Zaroff's goals and ambitions?

Zaroff wants to dominate, wants to control. He comes from a wealthy, privileged background, so he's used to getting what he wants in life and feeling superior to those around him. He lacks a true sense of humanity, seeing other people as little more than objects to be controlled and manipulated for his own pleasure. Although Zaroff seems to have all his material needs catered for, he lacks any kind of spiritual life. As such, he gets bored easily and so devises what for him is an exciting game: the hunting of human quarry.

Even a rich, powerful man like Zaroff can't control the world. So, he builds his own little kingdom on Ship-Trap Island. Here he is lord of his own domain, the undisputed master of all he surveys. And his word is law; he holds the power of life and death over everyone who ever sets foot upon the island. Zaroff's law is the law of the jungle—in which he is the dominant animal. This is the summit of his ambition. On Ship-Trap Island Zaroff can feel what it's like to be one of nature's most dangerous predators. 

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In Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," what are General Zaroff's goals and ambitions?

General Zaroff's main goal in life is to be entertained through the experience of hunting. Here's a man who has money to burn and nothing to hunt that challenges his mental and physical skills. Zaroff explains his ideal prey like this: "it must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason." Of course, the only animal able to reason on earth is a human, so Rainsford picks up on the clues pretty quickly that Zaroff hunts humans. Zaroff's philosophy on life can be summed up when he says, "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 pleasure." General Zaroff, then, is fulfilling his naturally-given potential to exercise his strength and to prey upon the weak. Weak things, creatures, and people of the world mean nothing to him. He feels justified, because of his physical, mental and financial strength, that he can do whatever he wants to do in order to live a pleasurable life.

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In Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," what are General Zaroff's goals and ambitions?

General Zaroff is the antagonist in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," and he lives on an isolated island. He is a big-game hunter and has the trophies in his palatial house to prove it. Unfortunately, he has grown discontent with his life because none of the animals he hunts--and he has hunted them all--provide a challenge for him anymore. 

He reveals this to Sanger Rainsford, also a big-game hunter, who ends up at Zaroff's house because he fell off his ship and is now on the island with Zaroff. During dinner, Zaroff explains that all he has ever wanted to do is hunt, but he tells Rainsford

"hunting had ceased to be what you call 'a sporting proposition.' It had become too easy. I always got my quarry. Always. There is no greater bore than perfection.... No animal had a chance with me any more. That is no boast; it is a mathematical certainty. The animal had nothing but his legs and his instinct. Instinct is no match for reason. When I thought of this it was a tragic moment for me, I can tell you."

The general goes on to explain that he has invented a new quarry, a new prey, to hunt: humans. He has been hunting the sailors from the ships he has lured into the rocks of the island, but they are beginning to bore him, as well. 

As soon as Rainsford introduced himself, Zaroff knew who he was, and now the general wants the challenge of hunting a world-class hunter.

"Tonight," said the general, "we will hunt--you and I."

And he does not mean hunt something together; Zaroff intends to hunt Rainsford. That is what he wants, and that is what he gets, but only because he gives Rainsford virtually no choice. 

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Is General Zaroff civilized in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game"?

In Richard Connoll's "The Most Dangerous Game," General Zaroff demonstrates all the material qualities of a refined gentleman of society. His clothing is well-made and he dresses impeccably. He is obviously an educated man: knowledgeable of the world and well-spoken. Zaroff lives in a magnificently appointed home, and dines on excellent food and wine. Based upon the broad interpretation of being civilized, one would (at first glance) be impressed by the polished and elegant lifestyle he leads; most likely he would be considered civilized.

One definition of civilized is...

...polite; well-bred; refined…well organized or ordered...

Another defines civilized as...

...marked by well-organized laws and rules about how people behave with each other.

We can infer Zaroff is aware of laws and rules, and the acceptable [civilized] behavior of human beings because he knows that he must hide his twisted beliefs and actions on a remote island. However, until his secrets are revealed, Zaroff seems to be extremely civilized. The reader, like Sanger Rainsford, perceives a man of class and breeding. 

Zaroff carries himself straight and tall, is wearing evening clothes, has a cultivated voice, and demonstrates politeness in greeting his unexpected guest. The clothes he lends to Rainsford, the food and the house support the illusion of civilized behavior.

By reading carefully, the reader may recognize foreshadowing when Zaroff describes Ivan:

"Ivan is an incredibly strong fellow," remarked the general," but I’m afraid, like all his race, a bit of a savage […] He is a Cossack. So am I."

At first, Zaroff's comment seems prejudicial, calling Ivan's race savage...until Zaroff admits that he and Ivan are both Cossacks.

Another statement Zaroff makes must cause one to wonder:

There is no greater bore than perfection.

What an odd statement by which to refer to oneself. Having defeated every quarry he had faced, he imagined that he was perfect. Since this is an impossible human condition, the reader might well be concerned about Zaroff's true character and/or state of mind.

It is not until Rainsford has spent some time with Zaroff, enjoying a most civilized evening, that the general shows just how savage he is. Zaroff, like Rainsford, is an accomplished hunter. When he had vanquished the most dangerous of animals in the world, he became bored and looked for something that might provide him once more with the thrill of the hunt. The only challenge left was to find a unique animal:

It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason.

Rainsford knows that only humans can reason. He is mortified by Zaroff's suggestion: 

I can't believe you are serious, General Zaroff. This is a grisly joke...what you speak of is murder.

If this is not shocking enough, Rainsford soon learns that this is not a theoretical discussion they are having. Zaroff has lured ships to destruction and captured sailors, using them in the hunt.

Zaroff brushes this aside saying that these aren't men of any value:

I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--lascars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels--a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them.

Then Zaroff tries to define civilized behavior in terms of the things the reader sees at the beginning of the story: expensive clothes, extravagant food, etc. 

I have electricity. We try to be civilized here.

Rainsford challenges Zaroff's humanity:

Civilized? And you shoot down men?

Once Rainsford recognizes Zaroff's perverse and skewed perspectives, he realizes that Zaroff has no concept of civilized behavior as society views it.

Zaroff is not a civilized man.

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Does General Zaroff get what he wants in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

I'm sure that General Zaroff was not expecting the surprise appearance of Rainsford in his bedroom at the end of the story, and I doubt that he expected to die in the manner that he did--as the hunted and not the hunter. But Zaroff found new life in his new game.

"... it supplies me with the most exciting hunting in the world. No other hunting compares with it for an instant. Every day I hunt, and I never grow bored now, for I have a quarry with which I can match my wits."

His whole life evolved around the hunt--first as a child in Russia, then as a division commander of Cossack cavalry and, finally, as an international big game hunter. It gives him great "pleasure," and he does not consider the human hunt as murder; he believes that he allows the imprisoned sailors a real chance to earn their freedom, and at least once, " 'One almost did win.' " However, Zaroff admits that the "ennui" he once felt sometimes returned, and he must have immensely enjoyed his pursuit of Rainsford: As a human prey, Rainsford provided Zaroff with more of a challenge than any of Zaroff's other victims. The boredom that Zaroff sometimes experienced when hunting the lesser men was not found during the hours spent tracking Rainsford. His pursuit of Rainsford made "a smile spread over his brown face," and when Zaroff is injured by Rainsford's "Malay mancatcher," the general laughed and offered Rainsford congratulations. After losing one of his dogs in the improvised Burmese tiger pit, the "deliciously tired" Zaroff honors Rainsford once again.

"Thank you for a most amusing evening." 

In the end, when Zaroff must have realized he would have little chance to survive being hunted by Rainsford, he nevertheless appears happy to accept this new challenge. Smiling,

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..."

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