We’re just going to come out and say that it's a red flag when an author describes the ocean as “blood-warm.” You don’t even have to have seen Jaws to know something spooky is going to happen. Both blood and the color red carry some fiendish implications in this story. Although Zaroff denies that he is a “cold-blooded” murderer, he does have a pack of bloodhounds, which is not the same as a pack of labradoodles.
The connection between blood and red is pretty obvious, but it’s useful to consider how many other things are colored red and just how Connell uses this color to suggest violence and fear.
Our first glimpse of red is the face of Zaroff, whose “smile showed red lips and pointed teeth.” A few lines later, he shows his “curious red-lipped smile,” so the guy basically sounds like a vampire. He is bloodthirsty, after all. The dining experience that Zaroff and Rainsford share also reads like a blood festival. They enjoy a traditional soup called borscht: a “rich, red soup with whipped cream so dear to Russian palates.” Yummy.
Connell really drives home the eeriness of the story by using blood and redness as symbols. (If this kind of thing floats your boat, check out the film The Shining.) Even before we enter the really creepy part of the story, we already have a sense of the tone. Like the sailors’ fear of the island, we have an idea that things are about to go very wrong…