Saki’s novella, “The Interlopers”, explores the intricacies of friendship and rivalry. The story takes place in a European forest one night during the winter. The setting of the story is analogous to the plot; the trees have to bind together for warmth to brave the fierce winter, the same way Ulrich and George have to work together to survive.
The exposition does a wonderful job of building suspense by telling of the feud between the two families. The feeling of impending doom increases as Georg and Ulrich hunt each other in the dark forest. The suspense comes to a boiling point when the men meet and stare at each other with the intent to kill. But neither shoots. “The chance had come to give full play to the passions of a lifetime. But a man who has been brought up under the code of a restraining civilization cannot easily nerve himself to shoot down his neighbor in cold blood and without a word spoken, except for an offense against his hearth and honor.” (p. 44) Just as both are about to shoot, a tree branch from above crashes upon the men. The feeling of suspense flees, and a feeling of sorrow and pity for Georg and Ulrich fills one’s heart.
The reader feels immense sympathy for the situation: how many times in one’s own life has a mere squabble gotten out of control and wrecked everything? The men lay, crippled beneath the tree in the cold and realize the foolishness of their ways. Ulrich says to Georg, “Neighbor, do as you please if your men come first. It was a fair compact. But as for me, I’ve changed my mind. If my men are the first to come you shall be the first to be helped…” (p. 45) The men continue to talk, and they reconcile. But in a strange twist of fate, wolves come and devour them both before they can be freed by their men. The message Saki was trying to get across was this: why fight over something petty when one can be friends?
How does the omniscient narrator shape the story?
The omniscient narrator serves two important purposes in the story: she allows the reader to have an objective view of the feuding men and also gives voice to the workings of nature in the story. Because neither of the men is the primary narrator (though readers meet Ulrich first), it is of little importance who actually has the more legitimate claim to the land. Additionally, since nature itself is almost a third character in the story, Saki’s use of the omniscient narrator makes visible some of nature’s character even when its actions are imperceptible to the men themselves. Though the men are repeatedly affected by nature’s unpredictability, the omniscient narrator makes clear to the reader what is at play.
Who are the true "interlopers" in the story?
Initially the narrator reveals that the men each view the other as the interloper; neither thinks the other has a legitimate claim to the land. Shortly after reconciling, however, the two men rejoice that there are no others to interfere with their peacemaking. In this moment, the characters present all humans beside the two men as interlopers. One might consider nature an interloper; the branches of the beech tree trap the men and the wolves ultimately kill the men. However, given Saki’s well-known view on the superiority of nature over man, it is more likely that the two men are the true interlopers, disruptive in their attempts to own and control the wild landscape.
What role does nature play in the story?
Nature is almost a third character in the story. Saki repeatedly personifies the natural elements. In this story, nature commits deeds of violence, the storm “shrieks” (392), the branches “answer” (392), and the wind “whistles” (392). Importantly, nature also controls the plot of the story. Though the two men consider themselves to be in charge, they are at the mercy of the wild landscape the entire time.
What is the role of violence in the story?
The story begins by setting up the expectation of violence. The two men are on a hunt for one another. However, when the finally meet in the forest, the men are unable to act on their murderous plans due to some social custom. Instead, nature becomes the violent actor of the story, trapping and ultimately killing the men. However, save minor details about injuries from being trapped underneath the tree, Saki leaves much of the goriness of the violence out of the story, which some attribute to an influence from Greek dramas (Byrne 174).
What does this story suggest about property rights?
The story exposes the folly of man’s attempts to control or lay claim to nature. The two men engage in a generations-long feud over a landscape that is not theirs to claim. Their greed and attempts to possess the forest embroil them in a vengeful existence that directly leads to their death.