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 the main conflict in “The Interlopers”?

The main conflict in “The Interlopers” is between the men and nature. While Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym ultimately agree to be friends going forward, they must contend with the fallen tree, the loud winds that carry away their cries for help, and the hungry wolves.

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Readers might be tempted to believe that the main conflict in “The Interlopers” is between the two characters, Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym. The families of these men have been feuding for generations, and they are but the two most recent inheritors of the vendetta. When the story begins, Ulrich and Georg are each seeking the other so that he might kill him. When they come face-to-face in the forest, the narrator says that the “chance had come to give full play to the passions of a lifetime.” The conflict between the two enemies is significant, certainly. However, it is not the most significant conflict in the story.

No, the main conflict of this story is between the two men and nature itself. When they meet in the forest, a storm rages, and a falling tree “thunder[s] down on them” both. It traps both men underneath it, helpless and stuck until help arrives. While they wait for help, Ulrich and Georg actually come to a peace and agree to be friends henceforward, but, unfortunately for them, help never does arrive. The “pestilential wind” drowns out their calls for it. Eventually, the “interlopers” of the title arrive on the scene: a pack of wolves. We can assume that the men are eaten by the wolves. Thus, the real antagonist the men face is not one another but, instead, nature, in the form of the storm, the tree, the winds, and the wolves.

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The main conflict of the story is between two families. A little context is necessary to understand what is going on. In the short story, there are two families that have been feuding over a strip of forest for decades. The courts ruled in the Gradwitz family's favour but the Znaeym family never accepted this.

This quote will give you the whole story in short:

A famous law suit, in the days of his grandfather, had wrested it from the illegal possession of a neighbouring family of petty landowners; the dispossessed party had never 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 had come to be head of his family; if there was a man in the world whom he detested and wished ill to it was Georg Znaeym, the inheritor of the quarrel and the tireless game-snatcher and raider of the disputed border-forest. 

What makes the conflict in the story more intense is Ulrich is wandering through the woods and he comes in contact with Georg. They both are armed and ready to use it on each other. But at this moment, there is a blast of wind and a tree happens to fall on them. Both men are pinned down and cannot use their weapons against each other. Here they have to face each other until help comes. Both men hope that someone from their camp will come. Even in the face of possible death, conflict remains.

However, as time progresses, their humanity comes out and they begin to reconcile. When they hear footsteps, they are ready to make amends. The irony is that the steps are the steps of wolves.

The conflict then is between two family, and in particular, between two heads of families.  

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