silhouette of a man with one eye open hiding in the jungle

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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Discussion Topic

Ivan's role and his contrast with the general in "The Most Dangerous Game"

Summary:

Ivan serves as General Zaroff's imposing assistant and enforcer. In contrast to the sophisticated and cultured Zaroff, Ivan is depicted as a brutish and silent figure, emphasizing Zaroff's reliance on intimidation and brute force to maintain control over his island and his deadly game.

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What is Ivan's purpose in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Ivan, General Zaroff’s butler and attendant in “The Most Dangerous Game,” is extremely large and vicious. He is deaf and dumb, so he is unable to communicate verbally with Rainsford or any of the men who approach the chateau. He, like Zaroff, has experience in the Russian military. Their service under the Czar appears to have been particularly brutal. Therefore, when those who served the Czar begin to lose their position in Russian society, Zaroff (and Ivan along with him) leave the country and relocate to this island. Both Zaroff and Ivan are blood-thirsty brutes who thrive on bloodshed and carnage. Consequently, although Zaroff hunts the victims who have the misfortune of landing on his shores, Ivan tortures them if they refuse the hunt. His size and his strength give him a substantial advantage over the men who arrive on the shore. He is ferocious and cruel in his torment of the men. In fact, the men decide to be hunted as prey rather than suffer at Ivan’s hands. He is an enforcer who brutalizes men so that they agree to become Zaroff’s prey.

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How do Ivan and the general contrast in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

On the surface, these two characters could not be more different. Ivan is a great, hulking brute of a man with a great beard. He is also incapable of speech as a deaf-mute and gives off a grotesque vibe. In contrast, General Zaroff is described as handsome and cultured. He has a "cultivated voice" and possesses all the charms of an aristocrat when he first meets Rainsofrd.

Though General Zaroff is more cultured and erudite than Ivan, not to mention his social superior, deep down both are sadistic brutes. General Zaroff's sophistication is only a veneer which hides his animalistic cruelty. It turns out he and Ivan are truly kindred spirits, taking pleasure in inflicting pain and viewing other human beings as prey.

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How do Ivan and the general contrast in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Physically, the contrasts are enormous. But then, Ivan contrasts with pretty much everyone on the physical level, being such a massive great hulk of a man. As a deaf mute, he's unable to speak, so inevitably lacks the eloquence of his master, the General. Zaroff is also quite a handsome fellow, in stark contrast to the gigantic man mountain Cossack with a long black beard down to his waist.

Zaroff may be a complete psychopath with a total disregard for human life, but he still retains the polished manners of a European aristocrat. Ivan doesn't really go in for manners much. But then he doesn't need to; he's just there to frighten, intimidate, and generally act as Zaroff's all-purpose thug. A giant he may be, but gentle he is not. Ivan takes after the General in getting a kick out of hurting people, except he's much less good at hiding it than his slick, sophisticated master.

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