Teaching “The Interlopers” by Saki

In today’s episode of the Teaching ELA Podcast, I discuss one of my favorite short stories to teach, “The Interlopers” by Saki. I’ve got an emergency lesson plan you can get on the board right now involving conflict. If you’re going to teach one thing from this story that will make teaching everything else easier or no longer necessary, teach students to cite textual evidence to analyze irony. I discuss that along with the suspense, theme, and a look at the literary movement known as Naturalism.

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  1. Use a conflict 3-column analysis chart if you need a lesson plan right now.
  2. If you’re going to teach one thing from this story, go with irony. It will naturally lead to the elements of Naturalism and the story’s themes.
  3. This is one of the more popular stories I teach

Links and Resources

  1. Selected Short Stories with Irony Lesson Plans Collection
  2. “The Interlopers” Page at ELACommonCoreLessonPlans.com
  3. Conflict in “The Interlopers” Lesson Plan
  4. “The Interlopers” Text
  5. “The Interlopers” Movie
  6. Another “Interlopers” Movie
  7. Interlopers” Movie Lesson Plan

2-Minute Lesson Plan from the Episode

Teaching Conflict – I can cite textual evidence to analyze conflict. The purpose here is to help students to see beyond the obvious conflict between the two main characters and recognize the more powerful force of nature.

  1. Make a 3-column chart on the board
  2. Label the left column “type of conflict.” You may want to fill in this column as you put it on the board. 
  3. In the left column, write the nursery in 2 rows, the Happy Life Home in 2 rows, and the veldt in two rows
  4. Read the story and fill out the chart together.

If you need a little help

  • The obvious conflict (if you’ve read the story) is between Georg Znayem and Ulrich Von Gradwitz
  • There’s individual vs society – this feud has been going on for decades so to break from it would make waves in the families
  • The most important conflict is man vs. nature. It’s nature that causes the accident with the tree and nature that causes the surprise ending.

The Most Important Thing: Irony

  • The prominent literary element that Saki implements in his short stories is irony. Analyzing and understanding irony accentuates the story’s theme that revenge is silly and damaging to both, that nature is indifferent to the plight of humans, and that humans don’t always determine their fate.
  • This discussion of irony will lead into the literary movement known as Naturalism, which claims that life is a trap, that nature is indifferent, and that humans don’t control their fate.
  • And of course, you can’t discuss the story’s conflict without dealing with the irony at the end.

Let’s discuss examples of different types of irony in the story.

  • Situational: The fact that the whole feud between the two men is a result of a land dispute over a piece of land that wasn’t even very good is ironic. This contributes to the theme that revenge is stupid.
  • Verbal: One of the feuding gentlemen claims that his men will find him dead under a fallen Beech tree. What the man initially means is that his men will show up and let the other one die. As you finish the story, you’ll realize that this phrase has a completely different meaning. 
  • Dramatic: We all know the two men make peace, but they die before anyone else can find out. This piece of irony exposes the foolishness of humans and the indifference of nature.
  • Situational: “Wolves” Life is a trap, isn’t it?

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