How do the characters change in "The Interlopers"?

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Flat characters are so often static and round characters so often dynamic that students often use the terms interchangeably. A character who undergoes a significant change during the course of the narrative will usually have to be complex enough to make that change psychologically convincing. In Saki’s short story, “The Interlopers,” however, we encounter two characters who are thoroughly flat. Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym hate each other fiercely. To say this is to sum up the personalities of both men for the purposes of the story. The fact that their one defining characteristic is exactly the same in both cases makes them indistinguishable from one another.

Despite being flat, both Ulrich and Georg are dynamic, since they abandon their hatred during the course of the story. Ulrich looks at Georg, sees the suffering in his face and suddenly sympathizes with “the man who was fighting so grimly against pain and exhaustion.” Perhaps one should call this empathy rather than sympathy, since Ulrich’s feelings are motivated by the fact that he is in exactly the same painful and dangerous predicament.

Character change in a flat character is rare, but it is particularly dramatic because that character loses his/her single distinguishing feature. Perhaps the best-know instance is Scrooge, whose mean-spirited hatred of Christmas is completely reversed by the end of A Christmas Carol. Although “The Interlopers” is much shorter and less detailed, the sudden nature of the accident that traps both men beneath the tree lends some verisimilitude to the change.

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