The Landlady is a short story written by Roald Dahl. The story is about a young man named Billy Weaver who arrives in Bath, England looking for a place to stay. He meets a woman named Mrs. Wilkinson who owns a boarding house. Mrs. Wilkinson seems nice at first, but Billy soon realizes that she is not what she seems. The story ends with a twist that will leave you shocked.
The Landlady is a great example of Dahl’s dark sense of humor and ability to create suspenseful plots. If you’re looking for a quick read that will keep you entertained, I highly recommend this story.
The setting for the mysterious tale “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl is an INN at dawn. Billy, a 17-year-old boy, needs somewhere to stay. He discovers a nice home on a lonely street with only tall, crumbling buildings as neighbors. He looks through the darkness and sees a brightly illuminated window. The author employs foreshadowing and tension to develop a motif that everything isn’t what it appears to be.
The landlady is a very kind old woman who seems to take an interest in Billy. She even offers to make him tea and show him around the house. The landlady also has a pet cat that she talks to often. The author uses the cat as a symbol of something sinister.
The fact that the landlady talks to her cat so much could represent her lack of human interaction. The landlady then asks Billy if he knows how to knit, which he does not. The landlady offers to teach him how to knit, but Billy politely declines. The next day, when Billy goes downstairs for breakfast, he notices that there are no other guests in the house.
The landlady tells him that she only takes in gentlemen lodgers. Billy is the only one staying at the moment. The landlady then asks him about his family and where he is from. Billy tells her that he is an orphan and that he came from London. The landlady seems very interested in this and asks him a lot of questions about his life in London. The author uses this to create suspense because it makes the reader wonder why the landlady is so interested in Billy’s life.
The landlady then shows Billy to his room and tells him to make himself comfortable. The room is very cozy and has a fire burning in the fireplace. The author uses this to create a sense of foreboding because it makes the reader wonder if the fire was lit for Billy or for another purpose. The landlady then leaves Billy to settle into his room and tells him that dinner will be served at six o’clock. The author uses this to create suspense because the reader wonders what the landlady is going to do with all that time before dinner.
Billy is easily led throughout this narrative. He is drawn to the B&B sign by the bed. This sign has a power over Billy that he does not understand. When the text said, “It was holding him, compelling him, drawing him irresistibly towards it,” (Dahl 1), one example was shown of how the sign was manipulating Billy. The landlady also has a hold on him. She is able to convince him to stay even though all of his alarm bells are going off.
The sign has a power over Billy that he does not understand, but is pulled in by. The landlady takes advantage of this and uses it to her benefit. The landlady is also very polite which makes Billy let his guard down even more. When Billy is talking to the landlady, he notices that she “spoke very quietly and slowly, as if she were frightened of making any sudden noise or movement” (Dahl 4). The landlady’s politeness makes Billy feel comfortable with her even though he just met her. The landlady seems like a sweet old lady, when in reality she is a psychopath.
The landlady’s psychopathic tendencies are first hinted at when she says, “I do like to know about my lodgers, you see. It makes me feel I sort of belong to them after a time” (Dahl 4). The landlady is being very possessive over Billy which is not normal behavior. The landlady also has a lot of pictures of her previous lodgers in her house which is also strange. The landlady is not what she seems and takes advantage of Billy’s innocence.
At the end of the text, it says, “there were no other hats or coats in the hall. There were no umbrellas, no walking-stick-nothing” (2). This demonstrates how if Billy had questioned why no one was at the INN and only two others had signed in years ago, he would not be alone in being intrigued by his sign. Since over 2 years have passed since anyone has been to that hotel, and the person who Billy inquired about never mentioned it,
The landlady must have killed the other guest and took their hat and coat to make it seem like people still stay there. The fact that “there was no food of any kind in the kitchen”(3) is also very strange because if she ran an INN there would be some food even if it was just old bread. The landlady had poor hygiene which is extremely unsanitary for a place that is meant for people to sleep in.
Also, “the only glass in the room was a small one on the mantelpiece containing a single dead moth”(4). The lack of cleanliness in her house shows how she does not care for her appearance or her house. The fact that she has a dead moth in a glass is also very strange. The landlady is not a very consistent person because one minute she is extremely nice to Billy and the next she is giving him a “strange smile”(5).
The fact that she wanted to give him tea even though there was no food in the house shows how desperate she was for company. The landlady had an ulterior motive for wanting Billy to stay the night. The story never states what happened to Billy but it can be assumed that the Landlady killed him and took his hat and coat to make it seem like people still stayed at her INN. The story ends with the landlady getting her wish of having someone to talk to forever.
Dahl also utilized dialog throughout the narrative to illustrate how Billy was readily influenced by using foreshadowing in the story. As Billy notices how barren the visitor book is, he becomes perplexed and asks her about it. She says, “He never left. He’s still there.” Mr. Temple and Mr. TEMPLE are both here (4).
The landlady is telling Billy that the previous guests never left, which should have been a warning to Billy. The landlady also killed them and preserved their bodies in the basement, as he found out too late. The landlady had wanted to add him to her collection. The theme of the story is that people can be easily manipulated if they do not use critical thinking.
The landlady used flattery on Billy by constantly complimenting him, which made him feel good about himself and want to please her. “‘You’re such a nice young man,’ she said… You must come and see me again soon.’ She was looking at him with such eagerness and affection in her eyes that Billy felt he really ought to go back soon” (5).