Theme and message

Deceptive appearances 

The theme of the short story “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl is deceptive appearances and the price one pays when not noticing the deceit.

The landlady in the story is the embodiment of a kind, gentle lady. She appears absent-minded and slightly “off her rocker”  as Billy notices from the start, but “harmless”. Billy seems so intent in seeing her as a harmless figure, that he deliberately ignores the clues which would otherwise make him suspect her, such as the guestbook, her taxidermy, the repeated references to how good-looking her guests were. 

Readers are alerted even from the title of the story that the landlady is not who she appears to be. The title “The landlady” makes us expect that the story will revolve around this character or that something about her or her position is crucial to the storyline. This makes readers pay extra attention to her. In this way, the expectations created by the title alert readers to anything strange or suspicious about the landlady. Therefore, readers realize that the landlady who pretends to be harmless is actually a murderer before the main character does.

The house is also used for the purpose of providing a cozy, attractive front, which becomes a trap for the guests. This is illustrated by the house drawing Billy into its ...

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