The landlady is a story, fenced in walls of suspense, uncertainty, and stereotypical innocence of an elderly woman, luring, lusting, over a young man, giving the story a seductive twist.
Suspense is first ignited by Billy’s attraction to a sign printed on a bed and breakfast. Initially the style, in which the author writes ‘BED AND BREAKFAST’, is suspicious, reading that, the words don’t role of your tongue, printed letters are usually associated with a warning. If this had been a romantic short story, he probably wouldn’t have done this; he would have done something more along the lines of ‘bed and breakfast’. You ca see how the style in which you present two of the same words, can create two totally different feelings.
After introducing the ‘BED AND BREAKFAST’ Raold Dahl then begins to paint a picture of a comfortable homely residence, a fire burning, green curtains (some sort of velvety material) and the pretty little dachshund curled up asleep. This all seems very nice, but when we are revealed to the fact that he can only see the room in ‘half-darkness’ we are more interested in what, or who lies on the other side of the room. Is there someone that is watching his every move? WELL there isn’t any hard evidence yet, and there probably won’t be any, evidence is boring, having a feeling about something, or reading into an illusion, is how the clues unravel themselves in a story like this one. This has built the foundation for me to come to the conclusion that someone was watching him a little later on. And has the reader asking questions. He now, draws a comparison, between the two places he could stay. Should he go on into the BED AND BREAKFAST, or should he carryon walking to the ‘bell and dragon’ further on up the road. This little decision, is truly a ‘Y’ junction in Billy’s life; One road is safe, the other is not. Of course he is going to pick the unsafe option, it’s a murder story. Well, strictly he doesn’t pick, he is sort of hypnotically drawn to this sign. As he turns to go (down the safe road) ‘ A queer thing’ happens. While in the act of turning away, his eye is caught in the most peculiar manner by the small notice that was there. The printed words BED AND BREAKFAST, repeat:
‘BED AND BREAKFAST BED AND BREAKFAST BEAD AND BREAKFAST’ This alone builds suspense when the author says
‘Each word was like a large black eye staring at him’
An alarm rang in my head. The large black eye staring at him is a symbolic illusion. The colour black, is associated with death, people wear black at funerals. Smokers lungs, their black, which leads them to Death. Black is not a colour to create a warm, happy feel. And is certainly not the effect Raold Dahl wants it to have. This colour is symbolising a death to come, most probably Billy’s. The eye, the black eyes. Is symbolising that he is being watched, as I said earlier. Someone was watching him peer into the room, and their watching him now. The feeling of being watched makes you weary, and uncomfortable. This is all wrapped in the letters of course, and Billy cannot actually see black eye, he is just compelled by the sign. We are now aware of something that he is not aware of. The bed and breakfast is not safe. This force that the letters have on him, leads him up the steps and reaching for the doorbell.
“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.”
Billy is aware of how strange this is, but doesn’t read into it, referring to this ‘dame’ as a ‘jack in the box’. For the reader this is confirmation that he was being watched, he was being watched when he peered into the sitting room, he was being watched and maybe controlled, when he was at the bottom of the stairs. The illusion of a black eye I referred to earlier has now come to life.