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 are the tone and mood in "The Interlopers"?

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In the short story "The Interlopers," the tone is serious and defensive. Both characters, Gradwitz and Znaeym, have hatred one for the other. The setting affects the tone and mood. It is a dark, stormy night in the forest. Both men are out to get the other. There is a somber, gloomy, suspenseful mood. The reader anticipates which one will find the other first. Simultaneously, they run directly into one another, both with rifles in hand.

Who will make the the first move? This question leaves the reader in great suspense. There is a dangerous feeling in the atmosphere:

The two enemies stood glaring at one another for a long silent moment. Each had a rifle in his hand, each had hate in his heart and murder uppermost in his mind.

Then, the lightning stikes a tree. The tree falls on both men, pinning them within close range of each other. The two men claim that their men will rescue them momemtarily. Ultimately, Gradwitz decides to let his anger and hatred go. He asks Znaeym to be his friend. Momentarily, the reader's anxiety is lessened as Znaeym agrees.

While the two decide to become firends, there is a team coming toward them. While they speculate as to whose men are arriving first, Gradwitz realizes it is a pack of wolves headed toward them. Again, the reader is left with a suspenseful mood as to what will happen now.

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It is with a the tone of a storyteller that the narrator of "The Interlopers" describes the savage domain of the forests of Ulrich von Gradwitz, but then there is a somewhat foreboding tone to the details of the enemity between von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym:

The feud might, perhaps, have died down or been compromised if the personal ill-will of the two men had not stood in the way; as boys they had thirsted for one another's blood, as men each prayed that misfortune might fall on the other, and this wind- scourged winter night Ulrich had banded together his foresters to watch the dark forest, not in quest of four-footed quarry, but to keep a look-out for the prowling thieves whom he suspected of being afoot from across the land boundary.

Thus, the mood of the story darkens as von Gradwitz traverses his land in the hopes of meeting his mortal enemy and killing him.  However, with an ironic twist of Nature, when they do come face to face, a huge beech tree splinters from the "shriek of the storm."  Then, as the two enemies lie pinioned, they speak in hateful tones of how their men will arrive and the other will be destroyed.  Ironically, though, the life-threatening accident has caused the men to give thought to other matters and they decide to resolve their differences.  Then graciously, each proffers the other his hospitality.  In a final ironic twist, they hear sounds and Znaeym believes that men approach; however, with a sick laugh, von Gradwitz tells his new friend that what they hear is wolves.  "The idiotic chattering" of the man indicates the gruesome ending they will suffer.

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What is the mood of "The Interlopers" by Saki?

The mood of a story is generally not something the author just announces with a flashing neon sign; instead, he uses specific details and diction (language) to convey the tone and mood of the piece. In the case of "The Interlopers," Saki reveals the mood of the story in the opening paragraph: 

In a forest of mixed growth somewhere on the eastern spurs of the Karpathians, a man stood one winter night watching and listening, as though he waited for some beast of the woods to come within the range of his vision, and, later, of his rifle. But the game for whose presence he kept so keen an outlook was none that figured in the sportsman's calendar as lawful and proper for the chase; Ulrich von Gradwitz patrolled the dark forest in quest of a human enemy.

Immediately we know the mood of this selection is rather dark, ominous, and suspenseful.

First of all, the author places us in a forest "somewhere" in the foothills of some mountains; while we have a big-picture idea of where these mountains are located, mountain ranges are vast and rather intimidating to contemplate without further pinpointing a location. The second mood-setting detail is that it is both winter and night, conditions which are not ideal when one is "somewhere" in a forest located in the foothills of a mountain range.

The final element of ominous suspense is human: a man named Ulrich von Gradwitz is patrolling (not walking, searching, wandering, or any other rather innocuous activity) the forest and he is looking for a "human enemy." This is a somber and rather chilling detail; by the end of the first short paragraph, Saki has created a mood which we both understand and fear.

In the next several paragraphs of the story, we have indications that something unnatural is about to happen, as well. For example:

[t]he roebuck, which usually kept in the sheltered hollows during a storm-wind, were running like driven things tonight, and there was movement and unrest among the creatures that were wont to sleep through the dark hours. Assuredly there was a disturbing element in the forest, and Ulrich could guess the quarter from whence it came.

Animals that should not be moving around at night are doing so; animals that are generally active at night are active. Even worse, we cannot blame this eeriness on the one man we know is in the forest; Ulrich knows there is something--or someone--helping to cause this commotion.

So, the mood of the story is one of eeriness, darkness, and suspense. Our sensitivity to evil is heightened by Saki's use of details about both nature and man which create a sense of foreboding about some kind of danger to come, and it is an appropriate mood for this story.

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What is the mood at the end of the story "The Interlopers"?

Replete with irony, Saki's story of two men embroiled in a feud so deeply that they forget the importance of life.  But, finally they reache a point in which the men begin to reassess their values.  For, as they lie pinioned by the branches of the massive beech tree, the two enemies cease their useless struggles to free themselves and focus upon the prospects of their rescues.  As they await the rescue of their groups, Ulrich and Georg begin to ameliorate their differences and vow to make peace.  Hoping to be heard if they call out together, the men raise their voices and shout as loudly as possible.

When Ulrich spots nine or ten, Georg tells him they must be his men as he had only seven out with him.  But Ulrich replies,

"No,'...with a laugh, the idiotic chattering of a man unstrung with hideous fear.

Clearly, then, there is a mood at the end of Saki's story of sheer terror as the men become cognizant that it is wolves who come running, not men; in addition, the prospect of being devoured by wolves is one that creates horror. At the same time irony plays a final role that lends a macabre note of humor at the reconciliation of the lifelong enemies in their final hour.

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What kind of mood or feeling is developed in the first paragraph of "The Interlopers"?

The mood generated in the first few paragraphs of "The Interlopers" is one of isolation and even a sense of antagonism. 

Remember that "mood" is is the feeling generated within a work, while "tone" is the writer's or narrator's attitude.

There are several ways in which Saki generates the mood in this story, the first being the description of the setting. Saki describes "a forest of mixed growth somewhere on the eastern spurs of the Karpathians. Then Ulrich "patrolled the dark forest in quest of a human enemy." And finally, "the narrow strip of precipitous woodland that lay on its outskirts." All these descriptions generate these feelings of isolation and the characters being on their own.

Then Saki generates the feelings of antagonism as Ulrich was "watching and listening, as though he waited for some beast of the woods..." Then the narrator describes the background of the feud between the two men. The disputes are also described in colorful language like "they had thirsted for one another's blood." 

The story is one that is defined by its first few paragraphs. The rest of the story continues in this mood until the end when the men find themselves as allies because of a common enemy—nature.  

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