The Interlopers Themes

What is the theme of "The Interlopers"?

Several themes are present in "The Interlopers." One major theme is nature's indifference to man, as Ulrich and Georg feud over who owns a part of the forest, but in the end, their reconciliation doesn't matter to a pack of hungry wolves. Another relevant theme is the danger of senselessly clinging to past grudges.

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Perhaps the most critical idea that drives "The Interlopers" is the criticism it levels against the kind of long-standing feuds and property disputes that divide its two main characters. Indeed, note the image on which the story opens, with Ulrich intent on finding and killing his adversary (even as Georg plans much the same). However, any expectation of settling this dispute through violence evaporates when the two get trapped together beneath a collapsing tree.

This experience of shared helplessness instills a sense of camaraderie between the two, and their earlier mutual hostility gives way to a spirit of reconciliation. Both men now come to recognize the foolishness of their earlier feuding, swearing friendship with one another. And yet, as the story approaches its end, Saki's writing takes a bleak turn, as the two men call for help, only to observe the approach of wolves.

In this way, Saki's treatment of the feud reveals how petty and self-destructive this behavior actually is. As the characters reconcile with one another and endeavor to put the feud behind them, they realize that their mutual antagonism had amounted to a waste of time, energy, and emotional resources. Indeed, this sense of ultimate futility is encapsulated in the image that closes the story: the wolves don't care about the feud or about what differences these two men might have had with one another. Here, helpless before the advance of wild predators, the manner of their death reveals the full extent of how meaningless their long-standing antagonism truly had been. Yet, at the same time, it should not be forgotten that their feud was also what brought both men into the forest to begin with and is thus responsible for their deaths.

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I would argue that the main theme of "The Interlopers" is the futility of conflict. Ulrich and Georg are waging a battle over a piece of land that their families have been fighting about for generations. It took being pinned under a tree together for the men to realize how ridiculous this debacle was and to see that they could actually be friends. Thanks to the arrival of a pack of wolves at the end of the story, it is strongly implied that this pointless conflict cost both men their lives. It is a story in which unnecessary hatred leads to tragedy.

Another apparent theme is the relationship between man and nature. Both the von Gradwitz and Znaeym families consider themselves to be proud and self-sufficient, but Ulrich and Georg prove no match for the forces of nature. The storm, the tree, and the wolves all prove to overpower the men.

A third theme that runs throughout the story is death. The story opens with Ulrich lying in wait for Georg, armed and ready to kill. When he and Georg cross paths, both are ready to kill, yet neither has the gumption to do this. By following through and shooting his nemesis at this early stage of the story, either man could have saved his own life, because he would not have wound up alone, trapped by a fallen beech tree, and being hunted by a pack of wolves.

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One theme of "The Interlopers" is the dominance of nature over man.

Although the von Gradwitz and Znaeym families have been feuding for generations over a narrow strip of forest, nature triumphs over both. Thus, the two men are the true interlopers in a domain that cannot actually be controlled by any man. When the two enemies first encounter each other "a deed of Nature's own violence overwhelmed them both," and they are pinioned under "a tight tangle of forked branches." While they are in this predicament, the men argue over whose foresters will arrive first. Later, however, as they lie between life and death pondering their situation, the two foes decide to reconcile their differences. Ulrich von Gradwitz tells Georg Znaeym that he has changed his mind, and if his men arrive first, Znaeym will be the first to be helped. After considering this offer, Znaeym decides to extend his friendship to von Gradwitz, as well. But in actuality, they have no control over their situation. Nature asserts its dominance as wolves are seen running down the hill toward them.

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In "The Interlopers," the theme is based on a feud between two families. The feud is based on an argument over a strip of forestland. The hatred that has developed because of this feud has become quite serious, with both Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym having murderous thoughts:

Ulrich and Georg are enemies who have brought a family feud over a piece of forestland to a murderous point.

Through the years, the feud has only grown stronger. The theme is based on the hatred or enmity that Ulrich and Georg have one for the other. These two men have allowed their hatred to culminate to a point which now involves serious, dangerous actions. The two enemies are in the woods waiting for the other one to run into the other. With guns in hand, the two men look at each other with murderous thoughts:

The two men face each other with rifles in hand, but neither can bring himself to shoot the other. Before either man can act, a bolt of lighting strikes a tree. It falls over and pins them underneath its limbs.

While pinned beneath the tree, having time to think about their actions, the theme changes to one of understanding. The two enemies decide to put their differences aside. Now that the feud is over, there is only one thing with which to worry--a pack of wolves is heading in their direction.

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