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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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Discussion Topic

Zaroff's intelligence and arrogance in "The Most Dangerous Game."

Summary:

In "The Most Dangerous Game," Zaroff's intelligence is evident in his strategic planning and sophisticated lifestyle, while his arrogance is shown in his belief that he is superior to other humans, justifying his hunting of them as mere game.

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How does "The Most Dangerous Game" portray Zaroff as smart?

Zaroff appears to be smart at Connell's first introduction of him. He arrives on scene in evening clothes with hand ready to shake. These two descriptors are evidence of a man who has confidence and who has experienced success.

We also see this in the words of the text wherein Zaroff first speaks:

In a cultivated voice marked by a slight accent that gave it added precision and deliberateness, he said, "It is a very great pleasure and honor to welcome Mr. Sanger Rainsford, the celebrated hunter, to my home."

Zaroff obviously in his voice had a pitch, tone, vocabulary, and knowledge of content that demonstrated his intellect at his first word in this piece. This could be called indirect characterization because the author doesn't call Zaroff smart or brilliant, he shows it.

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How does Zaroff display arrogance in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Zaroff is arrogant because he literally sees himself as superior to other human beings—to the point where he does not view killing them for sport as morally wrong. He sees other human beings as prey and himself as the hunter.

Zaroff's arrogance likely stems from his origins as a Cossack. There is a classicist element to his killings. He mentions mainly going after sailors who were wrecked on his island, but even these people are no longer a worthy enough challenge. Interestingly, he hunts human beings because they are more intelligent than animals and therefore more interesting to stalk for sport, yet even mere humans are no longer enough.

This is why he relishes the chance to hunt Rainsford. Rainsford is also a hunter and therefore the closest thing Zaroff has to an equal. However, he cannot possibly view Rainsford as a true equal—since he sees him as an animal to hunt. He also figures he will win their little game and so does not mind tipping the scales a little in Rainsford's own favor, putting off his actual killing of Rainsford for as long as he can. After all, he does what he does for the thrill of the chase. This proves to be his downfall.

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How does Zaroff display arrogance in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Zaroff is extraordinarily arrogant, both as it concerns his abilities as a hunter but also as it concerns his own sense of personal superiority vis-à-vis other human beings. This is someone without any sense of empathy or morality for whom other people exist as objects to be hunted so as to satiate his own ennui. Human beings mean nothing to him aside from challenges to be overcome and killed for his own enjoyment.

Additionally, his arrogance surfaces in his contest with Rainsford, where Zaroff is excited to at last find (in another hunter) someone he considers a worthy opponent. However, even here, he does not entirely take Rainsford seriously as a potential threat or view him as his equal. Over the course of the three days, Zaroff cuts his hunt short on multiple occasions so as to prolong the contest for his own enjoyment. This proves to be his undoing when Rainsford escapes and later succeeds in killing Zaroff in their final confrontation.

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How does Zaroff display arrogance in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

General Zaroff is arrogant enough to believe that he will defeat Rainsford by killing him during the most dangerous game. On the first night, the general follows Rainsford's difficult path through the forest and ends up locating him early in the morning while Rainsford is still sleeping in a tree. When Rainsford awakens on a branch, he looks down and sees General Zaroff in close proximity examining his tracks. Instead of looking up and shooting Rainsford, General Zaroff smiles and walks away. Evidently, General Zaroff is confident that he will defeat Rainsford and wishes to have two more days of hunting him. After Rainsford survives for three days on the island and wins the game, the general agrees to fight him in a one-on-one battle to the death. Once again, Zaroff is overconfident and believes that he can defeat Rainsford. Rainsford not only avoids the general for three days but also kills him during their duel at the end of the short story.

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How does Zaroff display arrogance in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

General Zaroff is arrogant in several ways. 

First, he is arrogant in that he thinks he is the greatest hunter.  He thinks that no animal stands a chance against him.  This is why is says he is bored with hunting animals.  This is also why he created a new game, where he hunts humans. 

Second, Zaroff has no qualms about killing people in a game.  This shows that he does not care about or value human life.  In essence he plays the role of God.  This shows an immense arrogance.  He believes that he holds the power of life and death. 

Finally, he is arrogant in hunting Rainsford.  In fact, he lets Rainsford go once, because he wants to hunt him again. Moreover, he does not expect Rainsford to go on the offensive. His pride and arrogance ultimately lead to his failure to calculate this fact. 

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