The Landlady Summary
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Roald Dahl’s chilling short story “The Landlady” was originally published in The New Yorker in November 1959. The story was later reprinted in Kiss Kiss, a collection of Dahl’s short stories published by Knopf in 1960. In 1960, Dahl won his second Edgar Award for Best Short Story Mystery with “The Landlady.”
As the story opens, 17-year-old Billy Weaver is on his way to his employer’s hotel in Bath, England for business. He is traveling from London, and the trip isn’t a smooth one. Weaver must change trains in Swindon, traveling through the afternoon and well into the night, arriving at nine o’clock. Dahl sets the mood with the weather, casting a cold and windy day for Weaver’s travels. On his way, he comes upon a bed and breakfast and is charmed by the window display, which includes a vase of yellow chrysanthemums. He decides to stay there instead of the recommended The Bell and Dragon, particularly after he spies a sign that repeats the words “Bed and Breakfast.”
When he meets the landlady, she is most welcoming, telling him she’s been expecting him. Weaver finds this a little odd, but does not mind it as the night’s stay and breakfast the next morning will cost him only half what he anticipated. He suspects that she might have lost her son in World War II and has not recovered her grief–or perhaps does not believe he is gone. Weaver agrees to go downstairs to the living room to sign in after he unpacks, as the law requires that all guests do so.
Upon arriving, he does not see the landlady, but seeing the guest book, goes to sign it. There are only two entries on the same page as his own—Christopher Mulholland and Gregory Temple. Weaver recognizes both names. He cannot place from where he knows them before the landlady enters the room with a tea tray. He asks if they were famous, thinking perhaps he had seen their names in the newspaper.
The landlady answers that they are not famous, just two young, handsome men, like Billy Weaver himself. Weaver points out that the entries are two and three years old. The landlady talks about how time flies, but Weaver is becoming suspicious of his recollection of the two names. The landlady responds by inviting him to sit with her and have some tea and biscuits.
While she fixes his tea, he ruminates that he must have seen their names in the newspapers, mentioned together for some reason. He recalls that one of the boys was an Eton student, but the landlady assures him that when he came to her, he was a Cambridge undergraduate. She watches Weaver drink his tea and he says that her guests must have just left recently, to account for the fact that one of them had graduated Eton and moved on to Cambridge.
The landlady assures him that they did not leave, and that they are staying on the floor just above his–the third floor. Weaver continues to drink his tea and tries also to place the aroma of it–or of the landlady–who sits directly beside him. As he continues to drink his tea and the landlady goes on about his physical attributes and age, and those of her previous guests, Weaver notices that the parrot perched across the room is not living. She reveals that taxidermy is a hobby of hers, and she has stuffed not only the parrot, but the dachshund sitting before the fire. Weaver finds this interesting. She offers him more tea, which he declines, as he determines that it tastes like bitter almonds and he does not like it.
That bitter almond taste is likely cyanide, a poison that will kill Billy Weaver so the landlady can stuff his body and keep him, supposedly with the other two young men who visited her bed and breakfast in the last few years.
There is plenty of symbolism packed into this short story. In the beginning, Dahl emphasizes Weaver’s fondness for briskness. This lively speed is diminished as he reaches the bed and breakfast, where he feels compelled to stop before the window. This foretells the end of his life. The neglected facades of the buildings in Bath create a morbid mood, suggesting decay and death. Chrysanthemums symbolize optimism and joy, but the fact that they are yellow suggests a deeper meaning. Yellow is a color of hopefulness, representing Weaver’s youth, but it is also a color of deceit, representing the murderous landlady.
Billy Weaver was a young man with his whole life ahead of him. He possessed ambition and curiosity. The latter led to his ultimate and untimely demise. While Dahl creates a scene in Bath that is devoid of life, the chrysanthemums and the landlady’s warmth and kindness work in opposition to leave the reader uncertain of Billy Weaver’s fate until he has tasted the poisoned tea.
Presentation on theme: "Argument “Essay” Instructions. Thesis Thesis: In “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl, some may say that the antagonist is a sentimental old woman, but really."— Presentation transcript:
1 Argument “Essay” Instructions
2 Thesis Thesis: In “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl, some may say that the antagonist is a sentimental old woman, but really she is a serial killer because she waits for the perfect victim, she gets Billy to trust her, and she preserves her victims in the same room together so she can remember them._____________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________
3 Claim and Counterclaim Claim: The landlady is a serial killer. ___________________ ___________________ ___________________ ___________________ ___________________ ___________________ Counterclaim: The landlady is simply sentimental. _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ Transition Word/Phrase :
4 Grounds (Reason 1) & Rebuttal Grounds (Reason 1): The Landlady waits for the perfect victim._____________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Backing (Evidence): The Landlady knew ahead of time he would arrive. Mr. Weaver asks to stay and the lady says, “’I knew you would’.” (Dahl 2). ___________________________ ___________________________ Rebuttal: She prepares a perfect place for the perfect person. _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ Evidence: The landlady puts thought and time into the room she prepares. Mr. Weaver notes, “the room was wonderfully warm and cozy.” (Dahl 4). _____________________________ _____________________________ __________________________ Transition Word/Phras e :
5 Grounds (Reason 2) & Rebuttal Grounds (Reason 2): The landlady presents herself in a fashion so that Billy Weaver will trust her. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Backing (Evidence): Billy feels comfortable accepting the hot tea from the Landlady. “She patted the empty place beside her on the sofa” (Dahl 5). ___________________________ ___________________________ Rebuttal: The Landlady presents herself in a way so that she appears matronly. _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ Evidence: When Billy meets the landlady he comments that, “’She not only was harmless…but she was also obviously kind’.” (Dahl 4). _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ Transition Word/Phras e :
6 Grounds (Reason 3) & Rebuttal Grounds (Reason 2):The landlady keeps her victims in the same room so that she doesn’t misplace them. ___________________________ ___________________________ Backing (Evidence): “’They’re on the fourth floor, both of them, together”’ (Dahl 6), she exclaimed. This shows her need to remember where her victims are. ___________________________ Rebuttal: The landlady has her guests sign their names because she can be forgetful. _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ Evidence: ”’In one ear and out the other, that’s me, Mr. Weaver”’(Dahl 5). _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ _____________________________ Transition Word/Phras e :
7 Conclusion Conclusion: In conclusion, it is obvious that the antagonist is not simply a sentimental old woman, but rather a serial killer because she pre-meditates a place for her prey to reside, creates an environment of trust, and she collects her victims for easy access. ________________________________________________ ________________________________________________ ________________________________________________