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 does nature destroy the men instead of them killing each other in "The Interlopers"?

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Nature ends the lives of Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym rather than their killing each other, or becoming friends as described in the narrative, in order to produce the ironic twist at the end that is typical of Saki's writing.

Certainly, it is a double irony that is dealt by Nature to the two foes in "The Interlopers." The first irony is that the two men are pinioned together under the heavy branches of a huge beech tree, an accident which brings them together in misery and pain. While they are held captive by Nature, von Gradwitz experiences a change of heart as he realizes that the feud between him and Znaeym pales in comparison to their life and death struggle against the force of the storm: 

"Lying here tonight, thinking, I've come to think we've been rather fools; there are better things in life than getting the better of a boundary dispute. Neighbor, if you will help me to bury the old quarrel, I--I will ask you to be my friend."

Then, after Znaeym agrees to be his friend and the two foes reconcile after having been brought together in their suffering, there comes another ironic twist. With what seems a rather Naturalistic ending, death comes in the form of the pack of hungry wolves. Perhaps, with this ironic ending, Saki also reinforces an old Russian proverb, "Man is a wolf to man," as previously Ulrich and his men have moved through the forest in much the manner of wolves, manifesting their similarity to these predatory animals as they hunt Znaeym.

 

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