What are the two main conflicts in "The Interlopers," how are they related and how are they solved?

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pearlepratt's profile pic

pearlepratt | Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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There are two central conflicts in “The Interlopers,” by Saki. The primary conflict, of course, is the rigid obstinacy of the men, Ulrich and Georg, who fight over a narrow strip of land. The conflict is magnified by the fact that neither man really needs the land. Both have larger tracts of land where they can find better populated forests and a greater variety of game. Still, because their families have feuded over the land for generations, they continue to fight one another. This conflict is resolved when the men share a flask after being trapped beneath the fallen trees. They agree to end the feud and make peace. This, however, does nothing to resolve the other conflict.

The second form of conflict is man versus nature. Both men were in a darkened forest in freezing conditions.  Each chose to spend the evening patrolling the small strip of land, hoping to catch the other and accuse him of trespassing. The dark, the cold weather, the storm and the enormous and imprisoning tree reflect nature’s might against the two enemies. The resolution to this conflict came, of course, in the form of hungry wolves that are drawn to the smell of blood. The wolves represent nature’s final blow against the men and the men’s deaths will represent a clear and decisive victory. 

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The two main conflicts in the story are man against man and man against nature. Specifically, the first conflict is Ulrich against Georg. Ulrich legally owns the land that once, three generations ago, was under the control of Georg's family. Georg responds to the generational feud by poaching and hatred; Ulrich responds with equal hatred and guarding against Georg's poaching. This night, Ulrich suspects Georg's poachers are on the land because all the animals are restless and distressed:

The roebuck, which usually kept in the sheltered hollows during a storm-wind, were running like driven things to-night....

The second conflict is Ulrich and Georg both against the fierce winter storm. Its raging, roaring wind sends catastrophe on their heads when a beech branch breaks and crashes on them while they stand face-to-face with raging urges. They both want to end the feud through murder. Now, not only is each man raging in the company of his greatest foes, each is held helplessly captive by the raging storm.

The conflicts are related to each other because Ulrich would not have been out in the storm if Georg hadn't been poaching and distressing all the wildlife, while Georg would not have been poaching had not the court awarded the contested land, which was held in his family's control, to the family of Ulrich three generations earlier. Neither man would have been there in nature—in the forest—if either family or either man had forgiven, ended the feud, and been friends before that night.

[Georg] "We fight this quarrel out to the death, you and I and our foresters, with no cursed interlopers to come between us."

The man against nature conflict is resolved in a shocking way. Saki's surprise ending--which constitutes an end-of-story climax surprise ending--is more of a shock ending, for the horrified gasp it elicits in readers, but it is in the surprise ending that this conflict is resolved.

The man against man conflict is resolved earlier when Ulrich takes pity on Georg's suffering and offers him a drink of wine from his own flask, taken from his coat pocket at great pain. Georg refuses the wine. Nonetheless, Ulrich contemplates the folly of their behavior and offers friendship. After a long thoughtful silence, Georg replies that the "whole region would stare and gabble" if they made a friendship with each other. Georg then says that he has changed his mind, too, and accepts friendship.

[Ulrich] "Neighbour, if you will help me to bury the old quarrel I--I will ask you to be my friend."
[Georg] "I think I have changed my mind about things too, this last half-hour. And you offered me your wine-flask . . . Ulrich von Gradwitz, I will be your friend."

After they together "raised their voices in a prolonged hunting call" to summon their men to find them, Ulrich sees shapes advancing at a run, "making all the speed they can, brave lads." Georg asks, "Are they your men?" Ulrich in an "idiotic chattering laugh" says, "No." The shapes running to them to save them are wolves. The wolves of the shocking surprise ending resolve the man against nature conflict. After triumphing over the man against man conflict by laying down their feud and their hatred and by making friends, these men tragically lose to the power of nature.

   "Are they your men?" asked Georg. "Are they your men?" he repeated impatiently as Ulrich did not answer.
   "No," said Ulrich with a laugh, the idiotic chattering laugh of a man unstrung with hideous fear.
   "Who are they?" asked Georg quickly, straining his eyes to see what the other would gladly not have seen.


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