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 literary devices are used in "The Interlopers"?

Literary devices used in "The Interlopers" include the pathetic fallacy, personification, and simile.

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"The Interlopers " takes place during a storm, and the ferocity of the storm reflects the ferocity of the feud between the two main characters, Ulrich and Georg. When the weather is used like this, to reflect some aspect of the story, this is a literary device known as...

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"The Interlopers" takes place during a storm, and the ferocity of the storm reflects the ferocity of the feud between the two main characters, Ulrich and Georg. When the weather is used like this, to reflect some aspect of the story, this is a literary device known as pathetic fallacy. At the beginning of the story, the narrator describes a "wind-scourged winter night." Later he describes this same night as "this wild night," and we are told that the wind is "whistling and skirling." The ferocity of this storm reflects the feud between Ulrich and Georg; they have, since they were boys, "thirsted for one another's blood."

The ferocity of the storm is also emphasized by describing the storm as if it were a person. This is a literary device known as personification. For example, the storm emits a "fierce shriek" and later a "weary screeching." The branches of the tree are also personified, being described collectively as "the mass of wood that held them down." By personifying the storm and the tree, the narrator suggests that even nature itself is willfully hostile to these two men. By personifying nature like this, and thus giving nature a will of its own, the author makes these elements of nature all the more menacing.

There is also a significant simile in the story, when Ulrich says to Georg, "We have quarrelled like devils all our lives." This simile, comparing Georg and Ulrich to devils, emphasizes just how malicious and vindictive the feud between the two men has been. They have both behaved like a devil to the other, each wishing the other nothing but injury and misfortune.

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The short story "The Interlopers" uses many basic literary devices. It sets up characterization, motive, allusion, all taking place in a symbolic setting. However, the central most literary device that is used would have to be that of irony

Irony is the most important literary device being used because that is what the ending is all about. The two characters move through an incredible emotional journey as they lay physically trapped under the tree. The start out wanting nothing more than to kill each other. However, after being trapped, they end their feud and become friends. The ironic ending where they see "figures" running down the hill toward them elicits excitement for their rescue, then the last word "wolves" leaves you with dark humorous irony that lingers after the story is finished.

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"The Interlopers" by H.H. Munro (Saki) is a short story which is more about plot than anything else; however, it also contains some elements of figurative language, as you suggest.

Idioms are the peculiarities of speech that are distinctive to a speaker or the characters of a region. Georg and Ulrich both talk in a rather formal manner, without a lot of contractions or abbreviated words which are the easiest idioms to find; however, they do use some terminology which could be considered colloquial (specific to their region). I have highlighted them in bold below. George says:

"How the whole region would stare and gabble if we rode into the market-square together. No one living can remember seeing a Znaeym and a von Gradwitz talking to one another in friendship. And what peace there would be among the forester folk if we ended our feud to-night. And if we choose to make peace among our people there is none other to interfere, no interlopers from outside ... You would come and keep the Sylvester night beneath my roof, and I would come and feast on some high day at your castle...."

Imagery is the use of descriptive language to create an impression for the reader. In terms of imagery in this story, the author draws a vivid picture, though again the emphasis is more on plot than consistent artful description. Here are a few examples of imagery:

  • "as boys they had thirsted for one another's blood"
  • "peering through the tree trunks and listening through the whistling and skirling of the wind and the restless beating of the branches for sight and sound of the marauders"
  • "a deed of Nature's own violence overwhelmed them both."

The author does not use a lot of similes and metaphors, but here is one vivid example from early in the story:

  • "The roebuck, which usually kept in the sheltered hollows during a storm-wind, were running like driven things to-night...."

This particular simile also serves as a foreshadowing of things to come, as it is an unnatural occurrence which is happening in the forest on this stormy night. 

Most of the examples of personification in this story center around the trees of the forest, which is not surprising since that is where most of the action in the story takes place. Consider the following (bold print is mine):

  • "a mass of falling beech tree had thundered down on them"
  • "The descending twig had slashed the skin of his face."

In fact, the entire concept of the trees "trapping" the two men is personification. 

Again, this story is centered around plot, but there are certainly some examples of figurative language in this story. 

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