What is the foreshadowing in "The Landlady"?  

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reader is kept in Billy's point of view and picks up clues with the viewpoint character but attaches more significance to them. The first would be the cheapness of the rent, which is only five shillings and sixpence a night and includes breakfast the next morning. There were twenty shillings to a pound in those pre-decimalization days. A pound was worth about five American dollars. There were twelve pennies in a shilling. So a shilling was worth about twenty-five American cents and sixpence, or half a shilling, would be worth  twelve-and-a-half cents. Five and sixpence would be equivalent to $1.37. And this is a resort town!

The next bit of foreshadowing comes right after Billy enters.

There were no other hats or coats in the hall. There were no umbrellas, no walking sticks--nothing.

The landlady explains that she is

". . . just a teeny-weeny bit choosy and particular--if you see what I mean. . . . But I'm always ready. . . . just on the off chance that an acceptable young gentleman will come along. . . . Like you," she added, and her blue eyes traveled slowly all the way down the length of Billy's body, to his feet, and then up again."

At that point Billy should decide to get out of there.

The next foreshadowing comes when he sees the names and addresses of Christopher Mulholland and Gregory W. Temple in the guest book. Both names seem familiar, but he can't remember why. Again the landlady shows her interest in handsome young men.

"Oh no, I don't think they were famous. But they were incredibly handsome, both of them. . . .They were tall and young and handsome, my dear, just exactly like you."

Billy should at least be getting the idea that he might find her in his bed in the middle of the night. The reader is getting very suspicious of this woman but doesn't yet begin to suspect that she is a real lunatic who kills her guests. After all, this is a homey bed-and-breakfast establishment in the stodgy town of Bath.

The reader doesn't see anything suspicious about the landlady serving tea because this seems so characteristic of such a woman. The author has the reader suspecting that something may happen  after Billy has gone to bed. But here it is happening just a few minutes after Billy has signed the guest book. The tea actually seems like the opposite of foreshadowing.

Then the clues and foreshadowing get heavier and more ominous. Billy sips his tea and detects a strange smell. When she mentions that Mr. Mulholland "was a great one for his tea," Billy says, "I suppose he left fairly recently."

"Left?" she said, arching her brows. "But my dear boy, he never left. He's still here. Mr. Temple is also here. They're on the fourth floor, both of them together."

This is shocking. The reader feels certain she has murdered both young men. And then she says of Mr. Temple:

"There wasn't a blemish on his body. . . . His skin was just like a baby's?"

How could she know that?

At about this time Billy discovers that the parrot is not alive but stuffed. Then he realizes that the dachshund is also the work of a skilled taxidermist.

The tea tasted faintly of bitter almonds, and he didn't much care for it.

Now the reader realizes that it is too late for escape. Billy has drunk a cup of tea loaded with arsenic, and he is going to be the landlady's next victim. He asks if there haven't been any guests other than Temple and Mulholland in the last two or three years, and the story ends ominously with:

"No, my dear," she said. "Only you."


angel-girl | Student

Here are a few examples:

1) When Billy pressed the door bell, the landlady came out immediately, which shows that she is quite eager to have a customer, and she might be up to no good.

2) The landlady kept using the word 'dear' on Billy when she had met him for a few hours only.

3) One of the sentences she said was," We have it all to ourselves." Which can show that she only wants to be alone with Billy.

4) The two names Christopher Mulholland and Gregory W. Temple were familiar because they were actually missing people. Since both their names happened to appear in the book, the Landlady might have done something to them.

5) Billy realised that the Landlady kept looking at him, which meant she was interested in him and might do something to him.

6) The dachshund in front of the fire was actually preserved and it looked so real. Also, it was suspicious that the Landlady would be able to do such a thing.

7) The Landlady made a statement," His skin was just like a baby's". This meant that the Landlady must have done something to him in order to be able to see his body.

8) The Landlady said that Mr Mulholland and Mr Temple never left the house, and were in the third floor.

9) The tea that Billy drank tasted faintly of bitter almonds. Bitter almonds can be turned to a kind of poison. This meant that if Billy drank it he would be poisoned and probably killed.

That is all I know.

awkwardtaco | Student

Here are a couple examples:

1. The porter recommended the Bell and Dragon Inn even though the landlady's bed and breakfast was closer.

2. There were no coats, hats, or scarves on the coat hanger.

3. The very cheap price.

4. The stuffed parrot and dog sitting by the fire.

5. There were only two names recorded in the several years the bed and breakfast was open.

6. The landlady told Bill that Christopher and Gregory had never left, and they were

 together on the fourth floor.

7.The landlady repeatedly surveyed Billy by looking at him from his head to toes.

8. The landlady told Billy that Gregory did not have a blemish on his body.

9. The narrator told the reader that the landlady smelt like hospital corridors.

10. The faint taste of bitter almond in his tea.