Set in contrast with the gnarled jungle on a remote island, General Zaroff’s mansion represents a superficial façade of civilization. A washed-up sailor might expect to find wilderness on a remote island, but finding an enormous house would be quite the shock, which is likely why Rainsford initially assumed the house was a mirage. As many people would, Rainsford assumes his salvation lies in the house as a symbol of civilization and protection against the wilderness. Within its glamorous walls, however, Zaroff and Ivan imprison, torture, and murder unfortunate shipwrecked visitors. After eluding Zaroff’s murderous efforts in the jungle, Rainsford surprises and kills him in his own bedroom. By making the mansion the residence for the story’s barbarous villain and the site of the final killing, Connell shows the reader that brutal violence can occur even in the most elegant spaces. The mansion functions as a criticism of Western society’s focus on material wealth as an indication of advanced civilization as opposed to people’s behavior, morality, and commitment to shared community. In other words, it isn’t the elaborate structures that define a civilization, but rather the actions of the people who live within them.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Zaroff’s Mansion appears in The Most Dangerous Game. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Most Dangerous Game