Roald Dahl Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

In "The Landlady" by Roald Dahl, what are the theme and conflict?

Expert Answers info

Tina Bishop, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookM.A. from Southern Utah University

calendarEducator since 2011

write2,337 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The theme of a story is the lesson that can be learned from it and the conflict is the struggle between opposing forces. Usually, one can find a lesson to be learned from the conflict itself or the resolution of that conflict. In Roald Dahl's "The Landlady," the conflict is both man vs. himself and man vs. man, or, in this case, man vs. very creepy old lady who kills handsome young men and stuffs them like trophies.

First, Billy Weaver struggles with himself to make a decision about where to stay for the night when traveling on a business trip. He's on his way to a public inn when he catches sight of an old lady's bed and breakfast. He becomes entranced by green curtains, chrysanthemums, a fire in the hearth, and "a pretty little dachshund" asleep on the carpet. Then, when the landlady tells him about the low price and the breakfast in the morning, he makes the last significant decision he will make in his life. After deciding to stay with the landlady, the conflict shifts from man vs. self to man vs. landlady. Unfortunately, Billy does not discover the landlady's deceitful and murderous secret in time to save his life. 

Possible themes associated with the conflict of Billy vs. himself could be the following:

1. Stay on the reliable path (in public places) and don't get distracted by tempting things such as cute little dogs, comfortable furniture, and low prices. 

2. Just because something looks nice doesn't mean that it is safe.

3. Things aren't always as they seem.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

M.P. Ossa, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Lecturer, ESL/TEFL Instructor

bookM.A. from Chapman University

calendarEducator since 2008

write5,713 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

The basic theme of the story is that a young man who is about to experience independence for the first time is embarking on his first important business trip. As a first timer, he has a tendency to become intrigued easily and a want to experience more. This time, he entered a bed and breakfast whose outside sign "hypnotized him", and in the same way, he booked the room noticing that only two people had been there before.  We know as readers that the place is spooky and dangerous, and that the landlady is up to something. However, the protagonist is too naive and new to the world to know. In the end, he became a victim of the landlady as did the other two guests on the guest book.

The conflict is innocence versus malice: All the elements of danger and malice are present and surround the protagonist. He, however, is so enthused with the idea of embarking in his own journey that he ignores the signs, and succubs to them all, as a victim.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

bobocello | Student

Trust the experienced people i.e. the porter who works in Bath. Don't judge based on the appearance of things.

braves25 | Student

Don't go to somebody house you don't know.