Ivan is the deaf and dumb assistant to General Zaroff. He is extremely large and seems to enjoy torturing and murdering helpless captives. Indeed, Zaroff uses the threat of turning his huntees over to Ivan if they will not comply with his desire to hunt them; the huntees invariably choose to be hunted rather than face the brutal Ivan. Ivan, like Zaroff, is a Cossack—a Russian who served as a soldier to the Russian Czar in the early 1900s. Ivan dies as the result of one of Rainsford’s traps.
After hearing gunshots in the darkness, Sanger Rainsford falls off a yacht into the Caribbean Sea. “It was not the first time he had been in a tight place,” however. Rainsford is an American hunter of world renown, and is immediately recognized by General Zaroff as the author of a book on hunting snow leopards in Tibet. While he shares both an interest in hunting and a refined nature with Zaroff, Rainsford believes Zaroff s sport to be brutal and Zaroff himself to be a murderer. As the object of the hunt, Rainsford constantly attempts to preserve his “nerve” and uses his knowledge of hunting and trapping to elude Zaroff. Rainsford becomes terrified, however, as Zaroff outwits him (but allows him to live) and toys with him as if he were a mouse. Having already killed Zaroff s assistant, Ivan, and one of Zaroff’s dogs, Rainsford surprises Zaroff in his bedroom. Rainsford refuses to end the game there, however, and kills Zaroff. Rainsford then spends a comfortable night in Zaroff’s bed, which raises the question of whether he will simply replace the evil Zaroff.
General Zaroff greets the stranded Rainsford by sparing his life, but later hunts him and attempts to kill him. Zaroff is distinguished by a “cultivated voice,” fine clothes, the “singularly handsome” features of an aristocrat—and an obsession for hunting human beings. He has established a “palatial chateau” in which he lives like royalty with his servant Ivan, his hunting dogs, and his stock of prey—the poor sailors unlucky enough to end up on the island. Zaroff s decoy lights indicate “a channel … where there is none” and cause ships to crash into the rocks off the coast of his island. He captures the shipwrecked sailors and forces them to play his game or be tortured and killed by Ivan. Zaroff toys with Rainsford, declining to murder him three times to prolong the game. To him, the life and death struggle is little more than a game and, while insulting Rainsford’s morality, he asserts that his embrace of human killing for sport is very modern, even civilized. Zaroff, like Ivan, is a Cossack and “like all his race, a bit of a savage”; yet he also claims a past as a high-ranking officer for the former Tsar of Russia. Zaroff s refined manners, and poised and delicate speech contrast with his brutal passion.
Kathleen Wilson (Editor), Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 1, Richard Connell, Published by Gale, 1997.