illustration of a wolf standing in the forest looking toward a fallen tree that has pinned a man underneath

The Interlopers

by Saki

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What is an interloper and who are the interlopers in the story?

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According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, an interloper is a trespasser, a person who intrudes in a place or situation. An interloper is also a meddler in the affairs of others.

In Saki's short story entitled "The Interlopers," Ulrich von Gradwitz patrols the dark forest one night in search of his enemy. He considers Georg Znaeym an interloper, a trespasser and "game-snatcher" on his "narrow strip of precipitous woodland" that has been reclaimed from the illegal possession of the Znaeym family "in a famous lawsuit." There is strong animosity between the two men, but when they suddenly confront each other as they each come around the trunk of a huge beech tree, they hesitate in a civilized moment before firing their rifles at each other. In that instant, lightning strikes the tree, and the men are pinioned beneath a tangle of branches.

Although not fatally injured, the two men are exasperated that they are trapped together. Each curses the other and adds insults, describing what his men will do to the other when they arrive. After some time, though, the two men reconcile with one another because they realize the folly of their animosity. Graciously, one tells the other than when his men come, he will have them aid the other. However, in another twist of fortune, there are new interlopers. In the "chattering laugh of a man unstrung with hideous fear," Ulrich von Gradwitz tells Znaeym that these new interlopers are wolves.

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The first poster covered the definition and three possible interlopers in the story. However, I would argue that Georg and Ulrich are interlopers themselves. Represented in the external conflict of "man vs. nature" found in the story, the two characters may be considered trespassers (interlopers) in the forest. Both attempt to claim ownership, but this something that can only be offered by society.

In truth, the men and their civilization cannot truly claim the land, as evidenced by their inability to tame the natural world. The tree's attack on the men illustrates this idea, and by the end of the story the men are about to be attacked by a pack of wolves. Each man has abused his rights by coming into the forest with the hope of killing his enemy to gain possession of the woods. However, the wolves, beasts that belong to the wild, appear to be the true victors in this conflict, as it is implied they will kill their human enemy and rid their world of these human intruders.

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There are at least two types of interlopers in the short story, "The Interlopers," by Saki (H. H. Munro), but only one of the group is deadly. When lifelong enemies Georg and Ulrich finally decide to end their feud once and for all, fate gets in their way. Meeting in the forest one night, they both plan to kill one another with their rifles, but neither can pull the trigger. Suddenly, a tree is felled by a bolt of lightning, and both men are pinned helplessy beneath it. Each of them expect to be found by their friends, who will then leave the remaining man to die alone. But before this happens, the two men make nice and decide to end their quarrel for good. Joining forces, they both call out for help. When they see movement in the darkness, they think they are saved. But, no! They are not men, they are hungry wolves instead. The reader is left to guess what happens next.

The interlopers, or intruders, are the wolves. If the expected arrival of the other men had occurred first, they, too, could have been considered interlopers upon the two men's quarrel. And, the tree which fell on them could also be looked upon as an unwanted interloper as well.

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The interlopers in the story are two men, Ulrich von Gradwitz and George Znaeym.  The two are involved in a feud that has spanned three generations, all resulting from a lawsuit Gradwitz' family placed against Znaeym for the land. The courts granted them the land, however the Gradwitz' family refused to give it up. The two families have been involved in a feud ever since.  The term "interloper" refers to a person who interferes in the business of others. The two are considered to be interlopers by the other as they both believe the other is trespassing on his land.

However, the wolves at the end of the story are also technically interlopers since they are intruding on the two men caught under the tree.  Though in yet another view, one could say the two men are interlopers in the woods which are really owned by its animal inhabitants, namely the wolves.

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An interloper can be defined as someone who becomes involved in a place or situation where they're not wanted. It's often the case, for example, that folk will poke their noses into other people's business or butt in to conversations which have nothing to do with them. Such people are interlopers.

As indeed are the two characters in Saki's short story "The Interlopers". But both Georg Znaeym and Ulrich von Gradwitz are too blinded by mutual loathing and the bitter feud that has kept their families at each other's throats for so long that they're unable to see this. As far as each man is concerned, the other is the real interloper, an unwelcome intruder trespassing on a piece of land that's rightfully theirs.

In actual fact, however, both Georg and Ulrich are interlopers in that this part of the world doesn't really belong to either of them or anyone else for that matter. For this humble plot of land is part of the natural environment. It was there long before either the Znaeym and von Gradwitz families arrived on the scene, and it'll still be there long after they've gone. The suggestion here is that human beings, in disrespecting the natural world by treating it as an object of exploitation, constitute an entire race of interlopers.

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