The landlady is a short story written by Roald Dahl. The story tells about a young businessman, Billy Weaver, who pays a visit to Bath. The protagonist searches for a place to stay and finds the landlady’s house which hypnotizes him. At first, he is attracted by the lady’s hospitality and cheap price for the room. Billy feels himself lucky. But quite soon he realizes that there is something wrong with the house as well as with its owner. The more he learns about the lady the more he gets frightened and finally realizes that the house is definitely not the best place to stay in. The whole story is rather tense and mysterious. In order to create suspense in a story the author uses foreshadowing and reveals true personality of the landlady only to the very end of the story.
It should be also noted that staying in the house for some time, the protagonist started to notice some strange things about the landlady’s behavior as well as about her house. He began to realize that appearance may be deceptive and the image of the woman was not as pleasant as he thought. The protagonist of the story was quite inexperienced and naïve. That is why it was hard for him to understand the true personality of the landlady. However, he began to notice some peculiarities in her character. Billy was mainly amused by the fact that there were no other guests in the house where the price for the room was very cheap. This observation aroused suspense in Billy’s mind and made him feel a certain tension. He realized that the house was not so ideal and tried to understand what was wrong with it. But the main climax of the story appears when the protagonist wants to sign in the guest book. Thus, when he was writing his name and address, Billy found out that there were only two other names in the book. The protagonist of the story was shocked by his discovery and couldn’t understand why so few people stayed in the lady’s house. Furthermore, he felt that the names that he saw in the book were quite familiar to him. Billy couldn’t stop thinking about it and was searching his memory. Billy felt a great sense of curiosity and decided to find answers from the landlady. He started to ask her some questions thinking that these boys can be some famous people or his dad’s friends. But suddenly he remembered something. At this rate, he asked: “Wait just a minute. Mulholland . . . Christopher Mulholland . . .wasn’t that the name of the Eton schoolboy who was on a walking tour through the West Country, and then all of a sudden . . .” (Dahl). Unfortunately, he didn’t had a chance to finish his question as the landlady interrupted him offering Billy a cup of tea. And when he tried to ask similar questions, she simply didn’t let him finish any of them. She just tried to change the topic of their conversation. The fact that she was reluctant to answer these questions arouses suspense in a story. Thus, the readers learn that the lady has a certain secret and they want to find out what exactly she is hiding. The protagonist himself understands that the woman is not that simple as she pretends to be. He finally notices her strange behavior and starts to feel fear in front of her. The more he learnt about the landlady and her house the more his perception of the woman changed. At first, he was rather naïve and innocent. Therefore, it was easy for the landlady to make him like her. It was easy to mislead such an inexperienced and young boy. But being naïve he still started to become suspicious towards the landlady. He started to notice things that he didn’t see before: cold room and mysterious atmosphere, absence of other people and emptiness that existed in the house. Billy didn’t feel comfortably any longer in the landlady’s presence. He didn’t feel comfortable when she looked at him or talked to him. All these facts contribute to the tension of the story. Moreover, it reveals the idea that appearance can be deceptive. Thus, the lady had a pleasant appearance and a sweet voice. Only through a certain period of time Billy realized that the woman simply wore a mask. It is also possible to say that the landlady’s ability to magnify and attract involves the existence of supernatural in the story. For example, when Billy was passing by her house he couldn’t but stop. The sign on the house was hypnotizing him. Thus, “each word was like a large black eye staring at him through the glass, holding him, compelling him, forcing him to stay where he was and not to walk away from that house” (Dahl). Moreover, when the woman asked Billy to come in, he also didn’t have enough strength to resist her. The crucial moment of the story comes when the landlady offers her guest a cup of tea. She tells Billy that her two other guests enjoyed it as well. While drinking it Billy felt a strange and peculiar smell. Moreover, during their talk the landlady admitted that all of guests were still in her house. Therefore, the main character of the story asked if she had any other guests in the last two years. Billy received a negative answer and understood that he probably had no chances to leave her house.
It is also possible to say that the effect of suspense in the story is achieved mainly through the usage of foreshadowing. The story is marked by a great number of foreshadowing clues. Thus, at the very beginning of the story the author makes a clue while describing the atmosphere that existed in the town when he arrived in Bath. When Billy arrived in the town, “the air was deadly cold and the wind was like a flat blade of ice on his cheeks” (Dahl). The choice of words supposes that something bad may happen to the character. And the whole atmosphere there was rather gloomy and mysterious. Another important moment in the story that includes foreshadowing happens when Billy finds the guest book. He is surprised as he found only two other names except from his. Furthermore, Billy was sure that he has already heard these names. Therefore, he thought: “now where on earth had he heard that rather unusual name” (Dahl). The protagonist couldn’t stop thinking about these boys. He tried to remember if he could possibly know them. His first suggestions were quite simple. Billy thought that they were his father’s or his sister’s friends, or he could have seen them at school. Then he started to think that he saw these names in the newspapers. It is worth mentioning that Billy felt that there was a certain connection between the two boys whom he saw in the guest book. Thus, in a talk with the lady he claimed that, “I not only seem to remember each one of them separately, so to speak, but somehow or other, in some peculiar way, they both appear to be sort of connected together as well” (Dahl). The connection between the boys frightens as well and it is interesting for the readers to understand what could possible connect the boys and why their names sound familiar to the main character of the story. It is another clue of the story which presupposes that something mysterious happened to the boys that stayed at the landlady’s house. It is also important to mention the way the landlady described her previous guests. She said that both of them were young and extraordinary handsome just like Billy. She told the protagonist how perfect her previous guests were. Al in all, as the landlady stated, she liked having visitors in her nest. Next clue that supports the idea that there exists some mystery in the landlady’s house is her dead pets. Thus, sitting in the living room, Billy noticed that the lady’s parrot didn’t move at all. He kept staring at it till he finally found out that it was dead. He remembered when he saw the parrot through the window from the street before he entered the house. He didn’t hesitate and was sure that the pet was alive. Then he noticed a dachshund which was also motionless. The young man was fascinated by the way these animals were preserved. He thought that it was done in terribly clever way. Therefore, he asked whose work was it. Billy felt a great shock when he learnt that it was the landlady’s work. Moreover, she claimed that it was not difficult at all to do such a thing and added “l stuff all my little pets when they pass away” (Dahl). The author also puts an emphasis on the way the landlady forces her guest to drink her tea. It is probably one of the most important clues in the story. Thus, when she asked Billy if he wanted to drink something he replied that he didn’t need anything. Nevertheless, the landlady brought him the tea. She started telling how good it was and how other guests enjoyed it. However, while drinking it, he felt that “the tea tasted faintly of bitter almonds” (Dahl). It does not stated directly, but it is clear that there was poison in the tee. The truth is finally revealed. Moreover, the lady herself told that neither of her guests leaved the house. This saying serves as the main evidence that the landlady was a murderer, and that the main character would hardly leave her house.
Dahl, Roald. The Landlady. Teaching English. Web. 29 Apr. 2015