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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Why is the ending of "The Interlopers" ironic?

The ending of "The Interlopers" is ironic because Ulrich and Georg shout, thinking this will bring other men to save them, but instead it brings a pack of wolves to destroy them. It is also ironic because it shows that the feud over "ownership" of the land is pointless. Nature owns the land, and the wolves will soon "own" the men as dinner.

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Situational irony is when the opposite of what is expected occurs, while verbal irony is when words mean the opposite of what they seemingly state. The ending of "The Interlopers" uses both situational and verbal irony.

At the end of the story, Georg and Ulrich, both trapped under a fallen tree in the wintry woods, decide to shout for help. They soon see figures coming and happily believe their ploy has been successful in attracting attention. It has been successful but, ironically, in a way that is unwanted and unexpected by either of them. They have attracted the attention of a pack of wolves who are coming to devour them.

Because they see nine or ten figures approaching, they assume it is Ulrich's men. Ulrich says,

They are making all the speed they can, brave lads.

This turns out to be an ironic statement. Ulrich will very soon be the opposite of glad that the "lads" are speeding towards them.

However, the situational irony goes deeper than just the fact that the shouting has had the opposite of the intended effect. The larger situation of the two men feuding bitterly over this piece of land is turned on its head as they both realize neither of them can claim "ownership" over nature. The wolves are not for a moment going to respect either man's "right" to the land or accept that they are "trespassing" on another being's "property." Nature, Saki is saying, can't be owned by humans. Ironically, the wolves will soon own the humans as dinner, proving that the two men, together, are the true "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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