The Landlady Themes by Roald Dahl

Seclusion & desertion

The city of Bath seems to be quiet and devoid of much vibrancy. The neighbourhood that Billy visits is festered with old and decrepit houses with not much natural beauty to admire. The bread and breakfast s also deserted with only two previous visitors.

The landlady is also alone to receive Billy who finds her welcoming but secretive. There are no more characters that are in action apart from these two which also adds a sense of extreme isolation.

The individuals seem to be living a life of separation and that makes them more vulnerable (much in the case of Mulholland, Temple and Billy). From dilapidated buildings to lonely individuals, the story highlights a scarcity of social harmony and a cohesive community.

Reality & Ruse

All through the story, there are elements of deception. The neighbourhood in Bath is full of ruined buildings save the bread and breakfast which is decorated with warm emotions and colourful flowers.

This gives it a welcoming appeal. However, inside the building, there are many dark secrets that are hidden from plain sight. The landlady is overly generous and affable but she has dark fetishes and murderous lust.

The furniture in the building is beautiful but it is made of dead carcasses of decaying animals and human beings. She is able to seduce young Billy even though he is alarmed at various points of the tale.

Youth and Old age

The story puts a stark contrast between the young and energetic life of London to slow and ponderous life of Bath. There is a comparison between the social life at pubs and private seclusion of the bread and breakfast.

The biggest contrast is between the unsuspecting Billy and nefarious old lady. Billy is impressionable and is seduced by the warm and generous conduct of the lady. On the other hand, the old lady is secretive, cunning and strategic in her choice of words.

She carefully insists that Billy signs the entry logs (possibly signing away his freedom and life) and drink the tea which she had intentionally drugged. Even the plethora of animals inside the building may add a sense of action and bustle but in truth, they are stuffed carcasses of dead animals.

In his youthful exuberance, Billy disregards is own instincts and chases the warmth of the bread and breakfast instead of his first choice, the pub. It is his haste that leads him into the wily trap set by the old lady.

Thus, he becomes a victim of his impatient youth as well as the lady’s wise and elaborate deception. She also brainwashes the young man by showering praise about his youth and looks which is another flaw of the restless days of adolescence.

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