Ulrich and Georg both believe that a patch of forest on the edge of Ulrich’s property rightfully belongs to their own, different, families. This family feud has intensified over the past two generations, even though the land is not that large or productive. The fact that Ulrich and Georg, men decades away from being able to determine certain ownership of the forest, take the land dispute even more personally than their grandfathers did suggests that the feud itself, and the ambition to win it, outweighs attachment to the actual forest.
Rather than hunt for wild animals, at the story’s opening the men hunt for each other. The fact that they share the objective of murder shows that they value the forest because it provides the opportunity to beat, or hunt, the other man. After Ulrich and Georg become trapped beneath a fallen tree, they first see it as a chance to finally kill the other. They both hope their men will be the first to arrive to the scene, so that their party can roll the trunk over the other.
However, Ulrich and Georg ultimately come to see being stuck under the tree as a chance to be gracious toward, and free, the other. Put another way, each man’s desire to get the better of the other man is not lost, just the expression of that desire has changed. Ulrich and Georg still want their party to be the first to arrive, but now they hope that their men will come so that they can act as the other’s savior. Even when reconciled, the men seek validation from an action performed on the other. The forest matters to Ulrich and Georg because of how their ownership of it, and actions within it, will be known and understood by others.
Power, Property, and Identity ThemeTracker
Power, Property, and Identity Quotes in The Interlopers
The forest lands of Gradwitz were of wide extent and well stocked with game; the narrow strip of precipitous woodland that lay on its outskirt was not remarkable for the game it harboured or the shooting it afforded, but it was the most jealously guarded of all its owner's territorial possessions.
If only on this wild night, in this dark, lone spot, he might come across Georg Znaeym, man to man, with none to witness - that was the wish that was uppermost in his thoughts.
But a man who has been brought up under the code of a restraining civilisation cannot easily nerve himself to shoot down his neighbour in cold blood and without word spoken, except for an offence against his hearth and honour.
And before the moment of hesitation had given way to action a deed of Nature's own violence overwhelmed them both.
We fight this quarrel out to the death, you and I and our foresters, with no cursed interlopers to come between us. Death and damnation to you, Ulrich von Gradwitz.
Both men spoke with the bitterness of possible defeat before them, for each knew that it might be long before his men would seek him out or find him; it was a bare matter of chance which party would arrive first on the scene.
In the pain and languor that Ulrich himself was feeling the old fierce hatred seemed to be dying down.
Lying here to-night thinking I've come to think we've been rather fools; there are better things in life than getting the better of a boundary dispute.