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    ‘The Landlady’ is a short story by Roald Dahl Essay

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    ‘The Landlady’ is a short story by Roald Dahl. It is about a naive young businessman who goes to stay in a bed and breakfast. The man knows little about the landlady’s desire to poison and stuff him. ‘The Red Room’ is also a short story about an ordinary man who goes to a spooky castle to resolve his curiosity and find out about a ghost. He later discovers that there is no ghost within the Red Room, but only fear, which turns out to be much worse than he ever expected. ‘The Red Room’ is written in a typically Gothic style, due to it being written in 1896.

    H. G. Wells typifies the story with a setting of an old, isolated castle with very Gothic-like features, “along the passage…come to a door and through that is a spiral staircase”. Within the castle there are numerous old mysterious characters that appear to quite senile and odd. The story ends with a situation of terror and violence, which is also a typical Gothic tradition in stories from this period, “a heavy blow at last upon my forehead, a horrible sensation of falling that lasted an age”. ‘The Landlady’ in contrast, was written in 1960.

    One suggestion of this date, is Billy Weaver’s train journey in the first paragraph. Another is the clothes that Billy wears, typical for that period of time, “He was wearing a new navy-blue overcoat, a new brown trilby hat, and a new brown suit”. In ‘The Red Room’, the narrative viewpoint is from the first person in this case, the man who goes to visit the castle is telling the story. This has a great effect on the reader, as it makes him/her feel much closer to the action and gives a feeling of loneliness, which is crucial to the story. ‘The Landlady’ has an omniscient narrator.

    This makes the reader feel much more as though they are having a story told to them and not actually there at the scene. This also has advantages, in the way that it allows the narrator to pick out Billy’s naive actions and comment on them. However, if it were a first person narrative this would not be possible. The bed and breakfast in ‘The Landlady’ is a very cosy little house, with nice furniture and a warm atmosphere, “On the carpet in front of the fire, a pretty little dachshund was curled up asleep…the room was filled with pleasant furniture…a big sofa and several plump armchairs”.

    The author uses a small dog in this particular “curled up asleep” state, to show the cosiness and peacefulness of the bed and breakfast. ‘The Red Room is set in Lorraine Castle, a very old, spooky and mysterious castle. The castle is full of cold, dark, candle-lit passageways, “the candle was well alight, and then I shut them in and walked down the chilly, echoing passage”. The fact that it is an “echoing passage”, adds suspense to the story, as fear is often associated with hearing voices and echoes pick up small sounds and amplify them greatly. The castle is candle-lit; this is another typical Gothic feature of the castle.

    Candles are often an unreliable source of light, therefore representing potential darkness. The red room itself also has a dark feel, “large shadowy room, with its shadowy window bays”. Shadows are also typically Gothic. This quote adds suspense to the story, because it makes the reader wonder what is inside the room as the darkness gives a sense of mystery. The landlady’s first appearance gives the reader an impression of a very nice, but slightly odd person, “It’s all ready for you, my dear”. The landlady answers this to Billy’s inquiry about a room to stay in.

    The landlady’s politeness is effective in putting her across as a very nice person, but in contrary, the fact that she is expecting him makes her seem very odd and unusual. Billy’s naivety causes him to mistake the landlady’s oddness for kindness, it is easy to see how she could be perceived as a nice normal lady, but some things that she says are very out of the ordinary, “I stuff all my little pets myself when they pass away”. Billy’s failure to realise the landlady’s oddness creates suspense, as the reader can see clearly that something is not right, but Billy just sees the landlady as a very nice person.

    The writer has maintained the three old people’s anonymity throughout the story, in order to create a sense of mystery about the characters, “the man with the withered arm” and “the old lady”. The old people’s actions are very slow and deliberate, “she swayed her head slowly from side to side”. This makes the old people seem wise and knowledgeable about the situation, as they never have a second opinion and seem sure about what they are saying; the “man with the withered arm” repeats, “It’s your own choosing four times on the opening page. “The Red Room” was written in 1896.

    An example of its old fashioned language is the use of word inversions, “Eight-and-twenty”. “The Landlady” was written in 1960, and when the same number is used in this story it is said “twenty-eight”, which is evidence of its much more modern style. Another example is the long Latinate sentences used in the story, “He supported himself by a single crutch, his eyes were covered by a shade, and his lower lip, half averted, hung pale and pink from his decaying yellow teeth”. A lot of commas are used to break the sentence up. The long sentences allow the writer to add a lot of detail and description to the point he is putting across.

    The story’s old-fashioned style is obviously due to the date when it was written. I think the writer expanded on the long Latinate sentences and some of the old-fashioned words to add Gothic effect to the story. In contrast, “The Landlady” is written in a much more modern style, again due to its date; the sentences are generally a lot shorter, “He had never been to Bath before”. Although the story is fairly modern, it is not completely up to date. Evidence of it being written in the 1960s is Billy’s clothes, “a new brown trilby hat”.

    Trilby hats were typical for that period. Roald Dahl uses the “trilby hat” near the beginning of the story to give the reader an idea of the period the story is set in. Similes are used in “The Landlady” to create a slightly edgy and wary atmosphere, “His skin was just like a baby’s”. When the landlady compares one of her previous visitor’s skin to this, it causes the reader to wonder why she would have been touching her visitor’s skin. The writer also used similes to illustrate the landlady’s actions and personality, “this dame was like a jack-in-the-box”.

    Dahl compares the landlady to a “jack-in-the-box”, as jack-in-the-boxes are sometimes scarily instantaneous, as was the landlady when she answered the door, “It made him jump”. Roald Dahl uses metaphors in the story, “it isn’t very often I have the pleasure of taking a visitor into my little nest”. He builds up apprehension and suspense in the reader’s mind by using this metaphor. For example, when the landlady describes her house as a “little nest” it makes the reader wonder what part Billy is going to play in the landlady’s “nest”; will he be the prey or the Landlady’s cared for baby?

    In “The Red Room”, H. G Wells personifies the shadows to emphasise the feeling that the man is not alone in the Red Room, “my candle flared and made the shadows cower and quiver”. The fact that the shadows “cower” and “quiver” shows just how strongly the feeling of fear surrounds the room, as even inanimate things are scared and trembling to the narrator. The writer also uses metaphors to put a feeling of life in objects, “My candle was a little tongue of flame”. This helps to create an ethereal atmosphere. He goes on to say, “it left an ocean of mystery and suggestion beyond its island of light”.

    This suggests that the candle is the only thing that can be seen in the room and the surrounding darkness is left unfamiliar and deep like an “ocean”. The strange characters in both stories cause the reader to ask questions in their mind about what influence they will have on the outcome of the story. The description of the characters builds up nervousness and suspense in the reader’s mind. Throughout “The Red Room”, the atmosphere of the castle gradually builds up suspense. The author uses a combination of shadows, candles and spooky corridors in the castle to create a suspenseful atmosphere.

    In the Bed and Breakfast in “The Landlady”, there are numerous clues that build up suspense. The stuffed animals, the fantastically cheap Bed and Breakfast and the guest-book which had mysteriously only been signed by Mr Mulholland and Mr Temple. The structures of the stories are obviously main suspense factors. In the “The Landlady” the author brings the story to a climax by using Billy’s inability to recall where he heard the names Mulholland and Temple before. The reader knows that these two men have been murdered, kidnapped or something similar, as the landlady is trying to disrupt Billy’s thoughts by asking him questions, “Milk? and “sugar? “. The reader is urging Billy to remember so he doesn’t drink the poisoned tea and realises the landlady is trying to murder him. The structure of “The Red Room” is similar, in the way that it is brought to a climax when the man is in the Red Room.

    The candles start to go out one by one, which gradually builds up suspense, and then suddenly the climax is reached when the man screams. In my opinion, “The Landlady” is the most suspenseful out of the two stories. The Red Room” is quite predictable in its outcome, because at the beginning of the story there are so many clues that it is going to be a supernatural story, “It will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me” and “spiritual terrors”. Also, the myths surrounding the Red Room at the beginning of the story are a sign of the slightly paranormal ending. On the other hand, “The Landlady” does not give many clues as to the outcome of the story and all is kept undisclosed until very late on. This has a very suspenseful effect, as the reader is left guessing upon the conclusion.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    ‘The Landlady’ is a short story by Roald Dahl Essay. (2018, May 25). Retrieved from

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