Back To Course10th Grade English: Help and Review
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Read the opening paragraphs of ''The Interlopers,'' a literary naturalist story by Saki, and you immediately know that this story is about vendettas fueled by generations of hatred. You might even suspect that the backdrop of a stormy night in a dark forest will play a central role in the story. However, you will need to read the entire text, and even consider numerous elements, to fully grasp the complex set of themes present in the story.
The author Saki embedded clues to the themes in other literary elements, such as conflict and main characters. First, we will look at conflict in the story and then examine how the main characters change during the story. Finally, we will examine a second conflict that emerges in the story and analyze how that conflict is resolved.
Saki, the pen name of British author, journalist, and satirist Hector Hugh Munro, was killed by a German sniper during World War I. ''The Interlopers'' first appeared in his story collection The Toys of Peace and Other Papers published in 1919, after his death. As we analyze the feud in the short story, we can draw some parallels to WWI.
The central conflict in the story resides in the feud between Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym, representing the theme of character versus character. As the conflict develops and the outcome becomes clear, the themes become apparent. This is a story that develops a theme about the futility of violence as a means to resolve external conflicts.
Ulrich and Georg inherited their animosity. It stems from a lawsuit between their grandfathers, which resulted in the von Gradwitz family taking ownership of a stretch of disputed forest land. While the feud predates their birth, Ulrich and Georg have hated each other since childhood. As the story opens, Ulrich hopes to catch Georg poaching in the forest so that he has an excuse to kill his adversary.
Von Gradwitz and Znaeym resolve their conflict sooner than would be expected. It takes about 30 minutes after they are both trapped beneath a fallen tree for Ulrich to offer Georg wine from his flask and for the two men to become friends.
It's clear the hatred wasn't as intense as it first appeared. That's where the first theme materializes. Saki shows us that a hatred passed on from generation to generation will weaken over time. While the animosity between Ulrich and Georg seems passionate in the first few paragraphs, it's not strong enough to overpower their instinct for survival.
However, neither Ulrich nor Georg escapes the consequences of their feud, even after they make peace. Pinned under a fallen beech tree, they become food for the wolves of the forest. Their shared fate appears tragic because it follows a reconciliation. Since Ulrich and Georg entered the forest with murderous intent, we can say that Saki wants the reader to see the tragedy in carrying hatred to its extreme.
The feud is the main conflict in the story. However, it isn't the only conflict; there's also the conflict of character versus nature. The main characters fight the forces of nature, represented by the storm, the fallen tree, and the approaching wolves. Thematically, Saki demonstrates that man is powerless against nature, and human conflicts are petty in comparison to what nature can throw at us. Von Gradwitz and Znaeym can dispute ownership of the land, but ultimately the land defies human ownership and conquers them both.
Both men are powerless against the storm and the beasts. They can't budge the tree that pins them down. The wind drowns out their shouts for help. They know they are doomed once they see the wolves approaching.
One shouldn't leave a discussion of theme in this story without touching on the title. The first and most obvious interloper in the story is Georg, the poacher, who interlopes on the contended forest. This prompts Ulrich to confront his long-time enemy. That sets the stage for the main action in the story.
However, Georg may not be the true interloper here. The true interloper here is the human violence that intrudes upon the forest. The natural world fights back with it's own kind of violence: a terrifying storm and a pack of wolves to dispatch the feuding parties. Thematically, Saki may have wanted the reader to see how human violence intrudes on the natural order of the planet.
Some critics would classify this story as part of the school of literary naturalism. However, don't confuse naturalism with the character vs. nature conflict. As an artistic movement, naturalism grew out of realism, which is a technique of writing that presents things as they actually are - unlike a world of idealism. Literary naturalism is more specific and the stories tend to include a pessimistic tone, characters who suffer apparently predetermined fates, and a twist at the end of the story. All those descriptions apply to ''The Interlopers.''
From the outset, with the description of the winter night and the backstory of the feud, ''The Interlopers'' takes a dark, pessimistic tone. Since Ulrich and Georg inherited the dispute that puts them in the perilous forest that night, we can call their fate predetermined. Finally, the appearance of the wolves after the main characters reconcile qualifies as an unexpected twist.
A literary naturalist would argue that Ulrich and Georg are powerless against a fate that was decided for them generations earlier. Their decision to end the feud was irrelevant. They were destined to die that night in the forest, as the ending implies.
The buildup to World War I occurred over decades as European nations armed themselves and formed alliances. Ancient rivalries simmered, much like the feud between the von Gradwitz and Znaeym families. The confrontation became inevitable for the most powerful countries, just as history doomed Ulrich and Georg to meet in the forest.
The war developed into a stalemate of destructive trench warfare, just as the feud between Ulrich and Georg reaches a stalemate with both parties trapped under the tree. The story ends tragically, which may have been how Saki predicted the war would end. The death total at the war's end reached 17 million, including military and civilian lives. As the war raged around him, Saki wrote a story with a theme that focuses on the destructive power of human hatred, while also demonstrating how the natural world doesn't take sides but can still punish mercilessly.
In ''The Interlopers'', a literary naturalist story by Saki, the author himself (Saki being the pen name of British author, journalist, and satirist Hector Hugh Munro) develops themes relevant to his war-torn world. When humans seek violent solutions to conflicts, tragic endings become inevitable. We see this in the apparent deaths of Ulrich and Georg, pinned under a tree as wolves advance on them.
At this moment, we see another theme common to literary naturalism, a genre whose stories tend to include a pessimistic tone, characters who suffer apparently predetermined fates, and a twist at the end of the story and comes from the school of realism, which is a technique of writing that presents things as they actually are - unlike a world of idealism. The natural world rejects human violence. Instead, humans are powerless against the forces of nature and their own fate. ''The Interlopers'' is a pessimistic story about the futility of human conflict.
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Back To Course10th Grade English: Help and Review
17 chapters | 316 lessons
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