Brief Biography of Saki
Born in Burma when it was still a British colony, Saki moved to England as a two-year-old after his mother, pregnant with another child at the time, died shortly after being charged by a runaway cow. Saki’s grandmother and aunts raised him and his siblings in a strict, harsh household while their father continued to work for the Imperial Police in Burma. Following a prestigious boarding school education, Saki, like his father, was posted in Burma as a member of the Colonial Burmese Military Police. When Saki contracted malaria after two years, he returned to England. He began a career as a journalist, writing with a satirical wit that was critical of Edwardian British society that is also present throughout his stories. Saki went on to work as a foreign correspondent in the Balkans and Russia, a novelist, and a writer of short stories. Never married, he may have been gay, but given the unaccepting politics of the time, this would have been a closely guarded secret. When World War I began, Saki was 44 years old, far older than the age of required enlistment. However, he volunteered to fight as a soldier, refusing an offer to become an officer. A German sniper fatally shot Saki, whose reported last words were, “Put that damned cigarette out!”
Historical Context of The Interlopers
Saki likely wrote this story near the beginning of World War I. The feuds between nations that led to World War I and its millions of dead were immensely bigger and more impactful than the personal feud at the center of this story, but Saki may have believed that the causes of World War I were borne out of similar inflated pride, devotion to property, and strict adherence to custom.
Other Books Related to The Interlopers
Often compared to fellow masters of the short story O. Henry and Dorothy Parker for his ability to craft fables and critique society with wit, Saki ends “The Interlopers” with a surprise reminiscent of O. Henry. In “The Interlopers,” Saki also provides a portrait of the corrupting influence and ultimate meaningless of society’s obsession with status and property. Works by Edith Wharton and Thomas Hardy contain similar depictions of the sad ultimate result of a man or woman focusing only on power within society, and losing hold of the stronger meaning and power of the natural world. In books such as Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea
and Melville’s Moby Dick
, the conflict of man vs. nature is central, but in these works, unlike in “The Interlopers,” the men don’t forget that nature is their primary foe. However, perhaps because they’re trying to defeat it, the men still don’t have an easy time getting along with nature.
Key Facts about The Interlopers
Full Title: The Interlopers
When Written: Early 20th century
Where Written: Unknown, potentially in the trenches during World War I
When Published: 1919, in the collection, The Toys of Peace, and Other Papers
Literary Period: Naturalism
Genre: Short Story
Setting: The Carpathian Mountains (a mountain range across Central and Eastern Europe), the early 20th century.
Climax: The men give up their feud and become friends, though remain stuck under the fallen tree.
Antagonist: Both Ulrich and Georg would consider the other man to be the antagonist.
Point of View: Third-person omniscient
Extra Credit for The Interlopers