Ship-Trap Island hosts both a twisted jungle and a palatial mansion, untamed wilderness set against an edifice of noble civilization, but Connell uses the story’s events on the island to reveal those boundaries as arbitrary. After reaching the island’s shores, Rainsford experiences a false sense of security knowing from the gunshot sounds, bullet cartridge, and hunting boot print that the island is inhabited by men. He views the traces of mankind’s technology as a sign of salvation, and avoids trekking through the jungle, thinking he will be safe once he reaches the mansion. What he finds is just the opposite—the mansion is the most dangerous place on the island, and Rainsford soon learns that he must conquer all spaces of the island, both the jungle and the mansion, in order to survive. Indeed, he finally defeats Zaroff only by breaking in to the mansion and hiding in his bedroom. Thus the island as a whole acts as a kind of microcosm for the world, in which both wild places and supposedly “civilized” places can be sites of danger and human cruelty.
The island also serves as a metaphor for General Zaroff himself. A mixture of cruel violence cloaked within the external trappings of civilization, Zaroff intentionally lives in seclusion away from society and its ethical expectations. Like most psychopaths, he lacks empathy, and without that human connection, he exists as an island encircled by but distinctly apart from humanity. He literally isolates himself from others on the island, but even when he does interact with other humans he is disconnected from them because of his cruelty.