The main theme in “The Replacement” focuses on the attainment of knowledge. The story is about how people perceive the world and how they often become confused when they try to interpret it. Robbe-Grillet reveals this theme through the interweaving of three plot lines. The central story, that of the interaction between the teacher and his pupils, centers on communication problems. The teacher apparently has instructed the students on how to read a text by pausing for the punctuation. Yet when the students do this, the teacher is not satisfied, due to their monotone readings. The teacher has not been able to communicate his idea of how one should read a story.
The students’ lack of understanding could be due to their apparent boredom in the classroom. Every chance they get, they whisper among themselves and glance around the room, especially at the paper puppet that hangs in the front, instead of actively . . . Read More
The Children in the Classroom
The children in the classroom all exhibit similar behavior. Most of the time they reveal their inattentiveness. While the first boy is reading, they whisper among themselves instead of following along in the text. They also spend a lot of time staring at a paper puppet hanging at the front of the class. They apparently fear the teacher, as noted when they look toward the teacher and reveal “a vaguely questioning, or fearful, expression.” As soon as the first boy stops reading, their attention immediately returns to the book.
The first boy is one of three boys in the classroom to whom readers are introduced. At the beginning of the sketch, he reads aloud. As he is reading, he suggests that he is obedient as he has been following the teacher’s rigid directions about pauses for punctuation. When the boy suddenly pauses, the narrator . . . Read More
The narrative weaves together three separate scenes. The first involves a schoolboy who is standing by a tree, peering intently at something in the branches. He repeatedly tries to reach a branch that seems within his grasp. After failing to grasp it, he lowers his arm, appears to give up, and continues to stare at something in the leaves. He then returns to the foot of the tree and resumes the same position he took at the beginning of the story. The narrator describes the position of the boy’s body as he peers up at the branches. He holds a book satchel in one hand while the other hand is obscured, probably because he is using it to balance himself against the tree. His face is pressed to the tree and turned in such a way that it would not be visible to an observer. The boy scrutinizes something unidentifiable about a yard and a half above the ground.
The narrative then shifts to the second scene, which is inside a classroom. There a boy who has been reading . . . Read More
Adam Frost points out in a retrospective essay on Saki’s career appearing in Contemporary Review, that the author’s first published story, “Dogged,” ends in a “reversal [that] is typical of Saki”; in that story, the “owner becomes pet and vice versa.” Saki would repeat such use of a surprise ending throughout his career as a short story writer, perhaps most famously so in The Open Window. While that story’s ending brought about a comic effect, in “The Interlopers,” which Saki wrote at the end of his career, this pattern is now employed with a more vicious twist: the human hunters become the hunted. This motif is repeated in two different ways. Georg Znaym and Ulrich von Gradwitz are turned into game as each hunts the other, his lifelong enemy. More crucially, however, the men, pinioned under a fallen tree, are about to become the helpless quarry of a pack of wolves. A critic for the New York Times points out that . . . Read More
World War I
In the late 1800s and early 1900s rivalries between European powers began to intensify. Imperialist states were fighting over land in Asia and Africa, ethnic groups were struggling for self-control, and nations were competing to build larger and more powerful military forces. In addition the region had developed a system of alliances in which nations would help each other out in disputes.
In 1914 a Serbian nationalist shot and killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which proved to be the spark that set off World War I. As tensions mounted between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, Germany (which was allied with Austria-Hungary) declared war on Russia (which was allied with Serbia). Germany expanded the conflict when it declared war on France and marched into Belgium to reach France, thus breaking an 1839 neutrality agreement. Great Britain declared war on Germany that same day. Other nations joined the fray, and . . . Read More
Point of View
“The Interlopers” is written from the third-person omniscient point of view, meaning the narrator sees and knows all. This point of view allows the narrator to present the history of the disputed land, explain how the similar personalities of Georg and Ulrich have brought the feud to a murderous brink, and explain the moral codes that govern the enemies. Each man’s perception of the events that have taken place are presented. Access to the thoughts and feelings of both men alerts the reader that the two are actually more alike than different, which further unites the men in their futile feud and even more futile impending death.
The dialogue in “The Interlopers” is important because it is the means by which the men express their willingness to step away from their feud. Ulrich, speaking first of the desire to “bury the old quarrel,” uses a . . . Read More
Ulrich and Georg are enemies who have brought a family feud over a piece of forestland to a murderous point. Since the original court settlement, which ostensibly ended the dispute, members of both families have participated in ‘ ‘poaching affrays and similar scandals.” Instead of dissipating over the years, the feud has strengthened throughout the lifetime of Ulrich and Georg, two generations removed from the original disputants. Saki does not reveal why the enmity has strengthened, merely alluding to the “personal ill-will” that exists between the men.
The hatred that each man feels for the other represents larger instances of animosity. At the time that Saki wrote the story, he was serving as a soldier in World War I, a conflict that developed out of inherited ethnic conflicts surrounding land claims that were unable to be satisfied by arbitrary judicial decisions. The drive of European . . . Read More
The characters in “The Interlopers,” Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym, have been enemies since birth. Their grandfathers feuded over a piece of forestland. While the courts ruled in the Gradwitz family’s favor, the Znaeym family has never accepted this ruling. Throughout the course of Ulrich and Georg’s lifetime, the feud has grown into a personal, bloodthirsty one. As boys, they despised each other, and by the evening that the story takes place, the two grown men are determined to bring a final end to the feud by killing their enemy.
On this fateful evening, Ulrich gathers a group of foresters to patrol the land in search of Georg. Separated from his men, he hopes to meet Georg alone and, when he steps around a tree trunk, he gets his wish. The two men face each other with rifles in hand, but neither can bring himself to shoot the other. Before either man can act, a bolt of lighting strikes a tree. It falls over and pins them underneath its . . . Read More
Harlan Ellison first published “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” in the March 1967 issue of IF: Worlds of Science Fiction, before using it as the title story in his 1967 collection / Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. A horrifying and ghastly story of a post-apocalyptic hell controlled by a monster computer, “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” attracted the attention of Ellison fans and critics alike, winning a Hugo award in 1968.
In the years since its original publication, the story has continued to attract critical attention. Because it is fraught with ambiguity and layered with nightmarish imagery, the story provides fertile ground for varied interpretations.
Critics such as Joann Cobb, for example, argue that the story reveals those attitudes present in 1967 toward the growth of technology. Others suggest that the story represents cultural anxiety over the relationship between humans and machines, an anxiety that finds . . . Read More
The Cold War
From the end of World War II through the mid1980s, the world endured a period commonly known as “The Cold War,” a standoff between nuclear superpowers which constantly threatened each other with mutual destruction. During this time, both the United States and the former Soviet Union built up huge arsenals of nuclear weapons aimed at each other. It was clear that if the weapons were ever unleashed, all life on Earth would end. Consequently, although there were many “brush fire” wars in remote corners of the globe, there was not a world war of the scope of either World War I or World War II. Nevertheless, there was a great deal of posturing and mutual fear. Many young people growing up during this time were convinced that their world would end in a nuclear firestorm.
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 did nothing to allay fears. When the Americans discovered that the Soviets were installing nuclear . . . Read More