The Interlopers by Saki

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The modern world has been craving the idea of individualism and the importance of personality for quite a long time. Still, at the same time, many thinkers and authors expressed a need for unity, no matter how great or important some individual ambitions might seem. One of such thinkers was H.H. Munro commonly known under his pen name Saki. In his short story The Interlopers published after his death in 1919, Saki quite plainly depicts the importance of friendship and the meaninglessness of quarrels. In the story, however, Munro post-ironically implies that it is important to always live in peace as past conflicts might render a newly created friendship useless.

Summary and Analysis

A short story The Interlopers follows two men being in a quarrel over their ancestors’ disagreement over land ownership in the Carpathian Mountains region. The story opens with a man named Ulrich von Gradwitz patrolling “the dark forest in quest of a human enemy.” That “enemy” is Georg Znaeym, another hunting enthusiast claiming a part of von Gradwitz’s land (Munro). By starting a narrative with an ongoing conflict in a rather active phase, Saki underlines the main theme of the story, which is quarrels, and, eventually, their pointlessness.

As von Gradwitz searches for his enemy, he fantasizes about encountering Znaeym. In von Gradwitz’s mind, he wishes he “might come across Georg Znaeym, man to man, with none to witness.” The aim of this “meeting” would obviously be murdering or otherwise assaulting Znaeym (Munro). The key factor here is the reason for hatred and the desire to murder a neighbor. Munro underlines that the conflict between two men started long before they were even born, comically remarking to how pointless the conflict is. Even before major action of the story begins, Munro chooses to demonstrate the emptiness of the conflict itself. While he explains in detail the disagreement between the ancestors of the two men, it is still unclear as to why exactly they dispute about currently and why they do did not make attempts to negotiate so far.

Von Gradwitz’s search for Znaeym does not take very long in the story and as soon as he thinks about murdering his neighbor, he stumbles right across him. Men meet face-to-face with only murder in their minds. The tension, however, is short-lived as the “Nature's own violence overwhelmed them both.” A moment later, both men find themselves stuck under a large branch of a tree blown on them by the wind (Munro). At this turning point, the story takes a somewhat different direction and starts outlining the second important theme of unity under challenging circumstances.

Initially, however, von Gradwitz and Znaeym carry on with their quarrel. They compete over who has more men coming to assist each of them as well as how much time might pass until any help arrives. After some time, von Gradwitz appears to soften a little and offers his neighbor some wine he has with him in a flask. The two eventually initiate a constructive dialogue and bond as friends. Then, they join their efforts in order to attract their men with a hunter’s call (Munro). This episode strongly suggests that unity is the key that allows overcoming serious challenges, while all past quarrels are to be forgotten to reach a common goal.

Characteristic of short stories by American authors in the early 20th century, however, Munro uses irony at this point. Just as the men call for assistance, they see figures in the distance, only moments later to realize that they are the wolves, rather than their accomplices (Munro). By providing such an unexpected and rather a tragic ending, Saki underlines yet the most important theme of the story. Munro implies that past quarrels do, in fact matter, and sometimes, no bond can outweigh them. It is important to stay on good terms with people around at all times, because it is possible to ruin everything long before any trouble comes.

Conclusion

Just like many other American short stories on the early 20th century, The Interlopers demonstrates a rather complex and thought-provoking idea even despite its short form. Saki provides that unity with others is not enough if people cannot forget about their quarrels early enough and take things cold-headed. In the story, Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym could have negotiated and mitigated their conflict before their encounter in the woods. Even though eventually they bond, such unity appears to come too late for them.

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Works Cited

Munro, Hector Hugh. "The Interlopers". Short Stories And Classic Literature, 1919, https://americanliterature.com/author/hh-munro-saki/short-story/the-interlopers.

May 12, 2022
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