The analysis of the short story “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl shows that it follows a linear, chronological plot structure. The narrative uses many foreshadowing elements, offering hints to the readers about the ending.
The main character in the story is Billy Weaver. Another important character is the landlady. The interaction between them makes up the largest part of the story.
The physical setting is Bath, a town in England. The events take place inside a boarding house, which looks pleasant, but where it is quite likely that several murders have taken place.
The story is told from the point of view of a third-person narrator who follows Billy’s perspective. This gives us insight into Billy’s thoughts and feelings.
The language is neutral, and the vocabulary mixes advanced words with common terms. The style and vocabulary reflect the worldview of the main character.
You can read a more detailed analysis in the following pages.
Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:
The words of the notice “Bed and Breakfast” which ends up tempting Billy into the house appear “ 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”. The imagery of the eye suggests that the landlady is probably spying on him from the inside, which would also explain why she opens the door so quickly when he rings the bell. It also anticipates the landlady’s unnatural interest in Billy. It is also worth noting that she repeatedly watches him throughout the narrative.
The house, which attracts Billy with its cozy, comfortable appearance, but eventually proves to be a deadly space, is a symbol of the classic trap. It has a beautiful appearance but hides danger and death. It is worth noting that Billy is seemingly attracted into the house against his will, and he is unable to explain why he chose to ring the bell, instead of going to the Bell and Dragon, as he originally intended. This gives the house an almost magical power to attract its victims. The house which traps people by its charming appearance also makes one think of the gingerbread house in the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.
The stuffed dog and parrot are another symbol of deceptive appearances which lull the potential victim into a false sense of security. When he first looks inside the sitting-room through the window, Billy notices the “pretty little dachshund (...) curled up asleep with its nose tucked into its belly”, as well as the “large parrot in a cage”, and thinks that “animals (are) usually a good sign in a place like this”.