The Interlopers Characters
The main characters in "The Interlopers" are Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym.
- Ulrich von Gradwitz is an aristocrat with lands in the Carpathian Mountains. Although he initially adheres to his family's longstanding feud, he shows generosity towards Georg when they are both trapped.
- Georg Znaeym is Ulrich's neighbor. Although he owns land, he is not an aristocrat and is thus of a lower class than Ulrich. His attitude towards Ulrich is adversarial, but he quickly accepts Ulrich's proposal of friendship.
Last Updated on October 14, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 793
Ulrich von Gradwitz
Ulrich von Gradwitz is an aristocrat from an old landowning family in Central Europe. The author does not specify the country in which the story takes place. Because his estate lies “somewhere on the eastern spurs” of the Carpathian mountain range, Ulrich may be Austrian, Hungarian, Polish, or Czech. This is deliberately left vague. What is clear is that Ulrich is an imperious, old-fashioned patrician of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He represents the aristocratic families that were already losing power and wealth in the late–nineteenth century—and that were to lose a great deal more in the First World War.
Ulrich is a landowner who identifies himself and his social position with his land, and he guards his land jealously, perhaps all the more so because his class is in decline. His estate is described at the beginning of the story as extensive, and it is later mentioned that he lives in a castle. He is clearly the social superior of Georg Znaeym, as indicated by his castle, his large estate, and the aristocratic “von” in his name, which links him with the land he owns. He also arguably shows greater magnanimity and nobility of character than his neighbor. While Georg says that he will instruct his men to murder Ulrich, Ulrich only observes that Georg will be sorry to have been caught poaching when his men come to release them both. However, Ulrich is also hot-tempered, saying that when his men arrive he will remember the hint about murder that Georg has given him. Even in this situation, however, he recalls the relevant social manners, remarking that it would be poor form for him to send condolences to the family of a man who died poaching on his land. This moment shows Ulrich to be a stickler for etiquette, even in extreme circumstances.
Ulrich’s decision to share his wine with Georg reveals not only his magnanimity but his capacity for imaginative sympathy. The wine has such a reviving effect on him that he wants to share it with his unfortunate neighbor, and this leads him to feel a more general pity for Georg’s situation. Even Georg’s curt refusal does not offend him, and he attempts again to act in a kindly manner. The reader has the sense that beneath his fierce exterior, Ulrich is a decent and kind-hearted person, for whom may have been a strain to carry on this feud for so long. He is eager to abandon it as soon as he actually spends a few minutes in the company of the enemy from whom he has always held himself aloof.
Georg Znaeym is Ulrich’s neighbor and longstanding enemy. Although each man regards the other as an interloper, George Znaeym reveals that he knows himself to be the greater interloper, given the class dynamics at play. While Ulrich von Gradwitz is an aristocrat from an old landed family, the Znaeyms are described as “petty landowners” who gained illicit possession of the land that had historically belonged to the Gradwitz family. Saki depicts Georg as somewhat coarser, meaner, and less secure in his position than Ulrich. When they are trapped beneath the beech tree, it is Georg who speaks first to taunt Ulrich for his helplessness, despite the fact that Georg himself is in the same position—in fact, an even worse position, since he cannot even see or get a drink for himself. When Ulrich mildly suggests that Georg will feel foolish when he is exposed as a poacher before the Gradwitz family foresters, Georg immediately threatens Ulrich with murder if his men arrive first.
Georg rejects Ulrich’s first overtures of friendship. However, when Ulrich asks explicitly for them to forget their quarrel, it is Georg who displays a sentimental nature by waxing lyrical about their future amity. It does not seem to occur to him that Ulrich may merely want to make peace rather than to become immediate friends, invite Georg to his castle, and spend important holidays together.
Although Ulrich shows sympathy for the man lying trapped beside him, it is Georg who thinks more broadly about the effect their newfound harmony will have on the community. He sees the two of them bringing peace to the foresters throughout the surrounding countryside. In this idyllic vision of the future, he shows himself to be the more imaginative and thoughtful—as well as the more sentimental—of the two. Like Ulrich, he conceals his kindness, but by the end of the story, he displays genuine benevolence for his new friend and for their neighbors. However, this benevolence is still accompanied by self-importance, since he wants to regard himself and his own actions as being central to the well-being of others.
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