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The Landlady by Roald Dahl: A Writer's Perspective

by Susan Woo, Edmonton Public Schools

Susan Woo

on 5 February 2013

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Transcript of The Landlady by Roald Dahl: A Writer's Perspective

When Billy Weaver arrives to London, he is new to town and homesick, making him vulnerable to the Bed and Breakfast's cozy charm and inviting facade. This vulnerability sets up the protagonist to plausibly want to stay with the landlady who happens to remind Billy of his mother.
"Please sign the guestbook."
The big
What is
your product/service?
Who is
your market?
Who is
behind the company?
Who is
your competition?
What is
competitive advantage?
Be inspirational
"The Landlady" by Roald Dahl:
A Writer's Perspective
by Susan Woo

The cozy, inviting setting of the house and the maternal landlady character serves Billy's need for comfort and familiarity.
"Animals were usually a good sign in a place like this, Billy told himself..."
Tea represents the beverage of "civilized people".
A sleeping dog implies a calm, serene mood.
The antagonist is a middle-aged woman, close to the age of Billy's mother.
He pressed the bell. Far away in a back room he heard it ringing, and then at once —it must have been at once because he hadn’t even had time to take his finger from the bell button—the door swung open and a woman was standing there.
Normally you ring the bell and you have at least a half-minute’s wait before the door opens.
But this dame was like a jack-in-the-box. He pressed the bell—and out she popped!
It made him jump.
Figurative language is used in the comparison of the landlady to a "jack-in-the-box" and onomatopoeia in "popped". This subtly foreshadows how she had been specifically waiting for Billy at the door and was ready to pounce on him.
Dialogue is deliberate.
"Please sign the

Little did he know, it would be memorable.
He found the guest book lying open on the piano, so he took out his pen and wrote down his name and address. There were only two other entries above his on the page, and as one always does with guest books, he started to read them. One was a Christopher Mulholland from Cardiff. The other was Gregory W. Temple from Bristol.

That’s funny, he thought suddenly. Christopher Mulholland. It rings a bell.

Now where on earth had he heard that rather unusual name before?
Suspense is created by the insertion of a mystery to solve....it creates a scenario where the reader is in a position to make predictions and try to solve the mystery alongside the protagonist.
By revealing the
inner thoughts
of characters, the author
what the reader understands and
how they should perceive things.
Foreshadowing Examples
. taks'i-dûr-mi, n. The art of preparing, stuffing and mounting skins - adj,
taxidermal, taxidermic - v.t. taxidermise, -ize - n. taxidermist
The subtlety of foreshadowing is dependent on the background knowledge of the reader. As Billy Weaver sips his tea which he notes, "tasted faintly of bitter almonds" , it suggests the presence of arsenic.
Photo courtesy of
“Left?” she said, arching her brows. “But my dear boy, he never left. He’s still here. Mr. Temple is also here. They’re on the fourth floor, both of them together.”
“Mr. Temple, of course, was a little older,” she said, ignoring his remark. “He was actually twenty-eight. And yet I never would have guessed it if he hadn’t told me, never in my whole life. There wasn’t a blemish on his body.”

“A what?” Billy said.

“His skin was just like a baby’s.”
“Good gracious me,” he said. “How absolutely fascinating.” He turned away from the dog and stared with deep admiration at the little woman beside him on the sofa. “It must be most awfully difficult to do a thing like that.”

“Not in the least,” she said. “I stuff all my little pets myself when they pass away. Will you have another cup of tea?”

“No, thank you,” Billy said. The tea tasted faintly of bitter almonds, and he didn’t much care for it.
Characters need to be believeable.
Characters are not created accidentally.
Billy Weaver
-naive, trusting
-young, inexperienced
-new to town, vulnerable
The Landlady
-appears to be sweet, innocent
-maternal figure
-offers cheap, cozy place to stay
The Landlady
by Madhav MukundanNew York, United States
Situational Irony:

What initially drew Billy Weaver into the Bed and Breakfast became the exact reason why he should flee from it!
“That parrot,” he said at last. “You know something? It had me completely fooled when I first saw it through the window. I could have sworn it was alive.”

“Alas, no longer.”

“It’s most terribly clever the way it’s been done,” he said. “It doesn’t look in the least bit dead. Who did it?”

“I did.”

“ You did?”

“Of course,” she said. “And have you met my little Basil as well?” She nodded toward the dachshund curled up so comfortably in front of the fire. Billy looked at it. And suddenly, he realized that this animal had all the time been just as silent and motionless as the parrot. He put out a hand and touched it gently on the top of its back. The back was hard and cold, and when he pushed the hair to one side with his fingers, he could see the skin underneath, grayish black and dry and perfectly preserved.
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