The Interlopers by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In The Interlopers by Saki we have the theme of conflict, bitterness, anger, reconciliation, mortality, connection, change and forgiveness. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Saki may be exploring the theme of conflict. Both Ulrich and Georg believe that they are the rightful owners of the forest. For three generations both men’s families have been in conflict over the forest with neither giving way to the other. If anything there is a large amount of bitterness between both men something that is noticeable when both Ulrich and Georg are pinned to the ground by the branches. It is as though the forest takes precedence over anything else in Ulrich and Georg’s life. It is the thing that drives them particularly for Ulrich. It is also interesting that Ulrich from the beginning of the story is willing to kill Georg as this may highlight further just how deeply felt the conflict is. With neither man being able to let go of their desire to see the end of the other. However it is noticeable that Ulrich does attempt to reconcile with Georg when both are pinned to the ground and that Georg accepts Ulrich’s offer of friendship.
This sense of change within both men may be important as it could highlight the fact that both Ulrich and Georg realise that there are more important things in life than the forest. Though both men previously considered the other to be an interloper by offering friendship to Georg Ulrich is prepared to let the past be the past. The first of his family to do so. The fact that Georg accepts Ulrich’s offer of friendship is also interesting as like Ulrich Georg is also prepared to forget the past. It might also be significant that both Ulrich and Georg manage to turn the bitterness and anger they feel towards each other in something positive, a friendship. As nobody would have believed it to be possible so deep was the rift between both men. The trigger for the turnabout by both men may be the fact that they both realise they are in a helpless situation. They reality being that faced with mortality both men realise that how they have treated one another may not necessarily have been productive. If anything there is a redemptive quality in both men’s change of heart.
There is also some symbolism in the story which may be important. Saki may be using Ulrich’s wine flask as a tool to connect both men. Also the fallen tree could symbolically symbolise the friendship between both men. How they realise that neither is different to the other. They are both the same. If anything both men are connected to one another. It is as though both men have been joined together by the branches of the tree. There is also a sense that both men are paralysed by the branches just as their feud between each other has paralysed them. The wolves may also have some symbolical significance as Saki could be using them to symbolize death. The setting of the story could also be symbolically important as Saki may be pitting man against nature. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when Ulrich sees the wolves. How vulnerable Ulrich and Georg actually are is also noticeable by the fact that they cannot see very far in the forest. Saki deliberately using the lack of light to not only add suspense to the story but to highlight man’s vulnerability against nature.
The end of the story is interesting as it becomes clear to the reader that Saki is using irony when introducing the wolves into the story. While both Ulrich and Georg had previously considered the other to be an interloper. It is the wolves who view Ulrich and Georg as interlopers. Both men are stuck in a vulnerable position in which they have no control. Yet previously both men had believed that they had the rights to and control of the forest. However it is clear that the reality is very much different. If anything by introducing the wolves into the story Saki could be suggesting that man is insignificant when compared to nature. Though man likes to think he is in control of nature. This is not the case. Morally Saki could also be suggesting that when men hold a grudge against one another. As Ulrich and Georg have. Neither man will actually be triumphant. If anything both men will only suffer. Something that is clear to the reader at the end of the story. Though Saki leaves the reader hanging as to what may happen Ulrich and Georg. In all likelihood both men will be killed by the wolves. The reader aware that the trigger for both men’s death had been their bitterness for one another. Though ironically before they die they become friends.