The Interlopers | Study Guide


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The Interlopers | Symbols



Rifles represent human violence. The story opens with Ulrich patrolling a disputed patch of forest waiting for "some beast of the woods to come within the range of his vision, and, later, of his rifle." Saki crafts his opening paragraph with skillful subversion. The reader expects Ulrich to be out hunting game with his rifle until Saki surprises with the true target of Ulrich's violence—a human enemy. Ulrich seems to believe his rifle gives him absolute power over life and death, and he intends to punish Georg for trespassing and poaching by killing him. Georg seems to believe the same, coming into the disputed territory on the same night with a rifle of his own and a similar mission of human violence.

Once they come face-to-face, however, neither is able to use his rifle on the other, for two reasons. The first reason is the restraining power of civilization. Both men have been brought up in a society that disapproves of human violence "in cold blood," and so each hesitates to act on the violence in his heart. The second reason is the superior power of natural violence. Both men are disarmed of their rifles and their power by the storm felling the beech tree. With this turn of events, Saki suggests that human power is limited in the face of the power of nature.

Beech Tree and Wolves

The beech tree and the wolves represent the violence of nature. Unlike man, nature knows no hesitation, restraint, or mercy. With the felling of the beech tree, Saki presents an interesting contemplation for the reader. The fact that the beech tree just happened to fall and restrain Ulrich and Georg at their moment of murderous intent could be an entirely random coincidence, or it could be divine intervention.

The two men are out and about on a dangerously stormy night—so ominous that animals in the forest are restless and "running like driven things." If the men were not so clouded by thoughts of human violence and secure in their own human dominion, they might have been more careful and gone home to seek refuge on such a night. However, these men respect their own power more than they respect the power of nature, and they are taught a deadly lesson. The beech tree ensnares them, preventing their escape and illustrating their limited power. The wolves come to finish them off. No amount of human reason or ingenuity will be able to save the men from their bitter fate.

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