The Most Dangerous Game | Study Guide

Richard Connell

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The Most Dangerous Game | Symbols



General Zaroff lives in a "palatial château," or country house, on Ship-Trap Island. The immense stone structure, mounted on a cliff, is so out of place on this jungle island that Rainsford at first thinks it is a mirage. Even when he realizes it's not a mirage, there is still "an air of unreality" hanging over the château. This unreality is signaled by the château's bizarre and menacing appearance, including a "tall spiked iron gate" and a "massive door with a leering gargoyle for a knocker." After Rainsford has bathed and dressed on the first evening at the château, he finds the general in a dining room, sitting alone at a table "where two score [40] men could sit down to eat." The size, strangeness, and emptiness of the château symbolize General Zaroff's isolation. Not only is he literally isolated, with only Ivan, his servant, for company, but he is also morally isolated. He subscribes to a philosophy of killing humans for sport, a custom no one else shares.


General Zaroff tells Rainsford he once had a dog named Lazarus, "the finest hound in my pack." One of the humans General Zaroff was hunting wandered into the Death Swamp, and "the deplorable part of it was that Lazarus followed him." General Zaroff is far more upset about Lazarus's death than about the death of his human prey. The dog Lazarus symbolizes General Zaroff's warped moral sense, which does not properly value human life.

General Zaroff's favorite dog shares a name with two figures from the Bible. The better-known Lazarus in the Bible is Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha, whom Jesus raises from the dead. This story does not have much resonance with General Zaroff's Lazarus, who does not return from the dead. However, Lazarus is also the name of the beggar in Jesus's parable about the rich man and the beggar. Luke 16 tells the story of a rich man who ignores a beggar named Lazarus. After death, in Hades, the rich man calls out to Abraham, begging him to have Lazarus relieve his thirst. Abraham replies, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony." Thus the parable is about an arrogant, selfish rich man who gets his comeuppance. By naming the dog Lazarus, author Richard Connell hints General Zaroff will also get his comeuppance.

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