What are the internal and external conflicts in "The Interlopers"?
There are both external conflicts and internal conflicts in "The Interlopers."
Ulrich von Gradwitz patrols a narrow strip of woodland where there is much game, the strip of land that has caused a feud between the two families that dates back to their grandfathers. He hopes to discover his enemy, Georg Znaeym, whom he considers a "game snatcher" and a "raider" of this disputed "border forest." Znaeym also thirsts for the blood of von Gradwitz. In their animosity, they both hope that misfortune will strike the other.
When the men encounter each other in the woodland, "a deed of Nature's violence overwhelmed them both." Lightning strikes a large beech tree, which sends large branches falling upon the two enemies and causes them to be helplessly pinioned beneath this tangle of branches.
As the men are entrapped by the branches, they resolve their disputes as they put aside their enmity for one another. However, they do not solve their conflicts with nature as wolves approach them before either of their men do.
Both von Gradwitz and Znaeym wrestle with their consciences as they lie pinioned under the tangle of branches. Ulrich von Gradwitz begins to feel "a throb of pity" for his enemy. Finally, he offers his flask of wine to Georg Znaeym. Further, he offers friendship to his old enemy by telling him, "I've come to think we've been rather fools....I will ask you to be my friend." After some thought, Znaeym says, "Ulrich von Gradwitz, I will be your friend."
The internal conflict in this short story is the disposition of the two lead protagonists and the way that they let their deep-seated rancour fill them and cloud their reason. The introduction to this short story makes it clear that this disagreement is one that has been inherited down through the generations of the two different families and it is one that both characters are obsessed with:
...the dispossessed party hadnever acquiesced in the judgment of the courts, and a long series of poaching affrays and similar scandals had embittered the relationships between the families for three generations. The neighbour feud had grown into a personal one since Ulrich ad come to be head of his family...
It is this feud that causes both characters to be out on such a dark night and it is this feud that leads them into the sticky situation they find themselves in. In many ways, it is their own internal conflict within themselves and their inability to forget and forgive that is more powerful than any external forces, at least until they meet during the course of the story.
The external conflict is provided through the conflict between the Znaeym and von Gradwitz families, but also the conflict between man and nature. The way that a tree falls on them both, crushing them together, and the rather unfortunate ending of the story makes it clear that nature is a far bigger source of potential problems for these two characters, and ultimately results in the downfall of them both.