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What are themes of the short story "The Landlady" by Roald Dahl?

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zeynep29 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 26, 2011 at 5:44 PM via web

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What are themes of the short story "The Landlady" by Roald Dahl?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 28, 2011 at 7:09 PM (Answer #1)

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I think one of the most obvious themes is that of appearances versus reality. It is interesting that the landlady is, at first at least, remarkably hospitable towards Billy. She treats him very generously and gives him his own floor for his own, and likewise charges him a minimal rent. Clearly Billy is taken in by this "kindness" which causes him to ignore the various signs that something sinister is going on here. Of course, it is all to easy to be taken in by a nice old lady who seems to be living by herself, when actually something much more sinister is happening. The fact that the tea tastes of bitter almonds indicates what is really going on, for the taste of bitter almonds is an indication that cyanide has been placed in the tea.

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 9, 2015 at 9:13 PM (Answer #5)

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The theme of innocence, youthful innocence as embodied in Billy Weaver, runs strongly throughout the book. Billy is presented as a frank, fresh-faced young man, barely out of school, who seems unaware of the pitfalls of life out in the real world. He doesn't for one minute seem to think that there is anything sinister about the landlady. He is completely taken in by her, her friendly ways and charmed by her comfortable rooms. It is true that he does detect some oddity in her behavior, but he cheerfully and patronisingly puts it down to her being 'slightly dotty', and nothing more. Although he mulls over the disappearance of the two guests that stayed there before him - a disappearance that made the news - he treats it as an intriguing mystery rather than as a hint of danger.

Youthful innocence, then, is a prime theme of the book; also the way in which young, innocent trusting natures are taken advantage of by older, more devious and wicked minds. 

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rsadoughi | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 23, 2013 at 5:58 PM (Answer #4)

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A clear theme in "The Landlady" is deception and and the naivety of Billy Weaver. The Landlady herself decieves Billy by convincing him of her kind nature and offering such reasonable and humble accomadation. As the story continues, the act slowly fades away, and the reader notices that Billy is beginning to become suspicious. The constant offer of tea and the curious case of the previous residents baffles the reader and raises the tension. Finally, the story ends in a thrilling fashion, whilst also leaving enough information untold to allow the reader to imagine they're own ending for poor Billy...

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