What are some examples of symbolism in "The Interlopers"?

Examples of symbolism in “The Interlopers” would include the wolves that are about to descend upon Ulrich and Georg as the story ends. They represent the revenge of nature on two men who have treated the environment like their personal property.

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For generations, the Znaeyms and the von Gradwitzes have treated the natural environment as if it were nothing more than a piece of property. Readers never get any sense that these two feuding families appreciate this part of the world for its extraordinary beauty or value it for its own sake. Instead, this relatively small plot of land has been the basis for a centuries-long feud arising out of a petty legal dispute.

In short, the natural world has been treated with something less than respect. And there's no sign that either Georg Znaeym or Ulrich von Gradwitz are going to adopt a different attitude to the environment than their warring predecessors. On the contrary, they seem wholly committed to keeping this feud going for as long as possible, with all the consequences that that entails for the local environment.

One can see the end of the story as symbolizing the theme of “nature strikes back.” Nature has been disrespected by these two feuding families for generations—but no more. In the form of a pack of ravenous wolves, it gets its revenge on the hapless Georg and Ulrich. The irony here is that, just before the wolves descend, Georg and Ulrich had agreed to bury the hatchet. But this was all too little, too late. Nature needs to reassert its control, and in the shape of these starving wolves, it does just that.

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As mentioned in a previous post, the Naturalistic perspective in "The Interlopers" is of the utmost importance. While both the tree and the wolves symbolize the power of nature, as well as its symbolic disregard for mankind, the nature of man is important as well. Both men carry rifles. These rifles symbolize man's attempt to control and destroy nature, through a hunt. The initial intent of possibly using the rifles against another man is not the first thought for either of them. Both men are attempting to try to control nature through exerting their power over nature itself. In the end, nature wins, as a result of the wolves and the tree. The wolves and the tree symbolize nature's indiscriminate power over mankind.

Yet, while the intent of the rifles initially lies in their perspective hunts, each is willing to turn his respective rifle upon the other. Their hatred for one another has usurped each man's initial intents. This symbolically illuminates each man's hatred for and desire to end the other's life. The rifle, therefore, symbolizes how man's intent can come to be corrupted by their emotions.

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Another symbol in the story that is worthy of mention is the wine flask. After the beech tree falls on the men and pins them to the ground, Ulrich offers Georg a drink from his wine flask. Georg initially refuses the offer; he maintains that he never drinks with his enemies.

Ulrich answers that he offers his flask as a conciliatory gesture. He feels that they have "quarreled like devils" over a "stupid strip of forest" for generations, and he is beginning to realize that "there are better things in life than getting the better of a boundary dispute." Ulrich then assures Georg that if his men show up first, he will make sure that Georg is assisted out of his plight before him.

For his part, Georg takes a long time before he answers. He asserts that "no one living can remember seeing a Znaeym and a von Gradwitz talking to one another in friendship." He imagines that there will be great peace if their feud ends, and he welcomes the idea of dining and hunting together. Georg states that the recent events have also changed his mind about Ulrich, and he accepts the wine flask as a gesture of friendship from his former enemy. Thus, the wine flask is a symbol of reconciliation and friendship in the story. The wine that the men share kindles warmth in their physical bodies; it also represents a considerable thawing in relations between two previously sworn enemies.

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I would want to point out the way in which the violence of nature against the two interlopers on her territory is symbolised very efficiently in the way that both Georg and Ulrich are knocked down and crushed by the tree in the storm. Consider how this event is described in the story, which comes just as Georg and Ulrich face each other:

And before the moment of hesitation had given way to action, a deed of Nature's own violence overwhelmed them both. A fierce shriek of the storm had been answered by a splitting crash over their heads, and ere they could leap aside, a mass of falling beech tree had thundered down on them.

It is important to realise that in this story, nature itself is a vital character, and such passages and the symbolism they contain make us think that the true interlopers are the two men who have foolishly started a feud over a stretch of land that they had no right to in the first place. The tree, the storm and the wolves indicate symbolically the supremacy of nature which is compared to the frail and arrogant claims of man over specific tracts of land.

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