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.
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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?