What is ironic about the ending of "The Interlopers"?

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The ending of “The Interlopers” provides an excellent example of situational irony (when the result of a situation is different from what you expect the result to be). In the story, Ulrich and Georg are the heads of their families and they have a long-standing feud that was fueled even more strongly by their time as boys together. When the two become trapped one night, pinned down by trees in a forest together, they eventually decide to “bury the old quarrel” and become friends. The two endeavor to call for help, now satisfied in their reconciliation and eager to be saved together.

The irony comes when Ulrich spots a group of figures approaching them in the darkness. He proclaims that these figures are “running down the hills” towards the two trapped men. In this situation, one might expect a group of people to arrive and free the men so that the feud between their families can finally end. However, this is not what happens. Instead, Ulrich laughs, “the idiotic chattering of a man unstrung with hideous fear.” When questioned by Georg as to the identity of the figures, Ulrich says simply, “Wolves.” The irony here is that instead of being saved, it is implied that the men will be eaten by wolves. These two men achieve reconciliation only to be killed by natural forces. At the beginning of the story, they wished to kill each other—to face one another man-to-man. In the end, a wolf presumably does the job for them. When they remove their conflict and are no longer a threat to one another, that is precisely when nature enters and presents a new threat.

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The ending of the story is ironic because Ulrich and Georg call for help and think that their men are coming to help them, but they can’t see clearly. They are relieved at first, but the reader is left with a sense of dread as they realize there are actually wolves running towards them. They have no chance of survival, considering they are stuck under the tree.

The irony is that when the story begins, Ulrich and Georg are the biggest threats to each other, but once they decide to be friends and remove the main conflict, nature takes charge, and there is no controlling nature. First, the tree almost kills them. Then, when they finally resolve their issues with each other, it doesn’t matter because they can’t stand up to the wolves. This irony emphasizes the theme of the story: humans believe they are in control, but nature is, in fact, in control.

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