Tone is of great significance to the storyline as it portrays the reader’s attitude while expressing the genre. Tony Hunter’s ‘Listen to the End’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘The Landlady’ both guide the audience through their violent and mysterious stories that begin with a powerless main character on a dark, shivering evening. However, through varying and distinctive techniques, the two short stories differ notably in terms of setting, characterisation, and point of view, which ultimately convey the menacing tone.
Both Hunter and Dahl use point of view and setting to form the sinister tone in their baleful narratives. Written in third person, ‘Listen to the End’ starts with the girl hurriedly running to her familiar apartment at night while “swirls of mist danced beckoningly around her”. As though they are trapping and suffocating her, stopping her from getting back to her home, her safety. ‘The Landlady’ is also written in third person but alternatively, Billy Weaver is arriving to an unfamiliar place at night. He is compelled by the sign that was “staring at him through the glass”, and “forcing him to stay”, ultimately pulling him towards the wicked motel. Hunter’s omniscient narrator tells the story very intimately, as if he was there and is sensing what the girl is feeling. Unlike Dahl, who arranges his story to be told like an imagination, rather than telling it as though it was a memory. Therefore, these creative techniques of having darkness around the character from the beginning makes the stories sound threatening.
The main characters in both author’s texts are shaped to be vulnerable while being exposed but unaware to upcoming threat. For example, Hunter uses the line, “she clutches her paper bag of groceries like a shield against the dark”. A shield is used to protect oneself from harm. The helpless, lonely girl is “clutching”, which resembles her fear and defencelessness. Similarly, Dahl’s character, Billy Weaver, is made to be a young, handsome man, navigating his way to find somewhere to sleep on a cold night. Although he is naïve and is entirely oblivious to the Landlady’s evil. He soon queries his surroundings by memory of strange events, “There is nothing more
tantalizing than thing like this that lingers just outside the borders of one’s memory”. Here, Dahl is motivating the readers to question the Landlady. ‘Listen to the End’, Hunter did not name his main character and left the girl’s life unidentified. Whereas Dahl has named his character “Billy Weaver” and mentions more detail of his background and life story, which has the reader more empathy for the character.
Through various techniques featured in the texts ‘Listen to the End’ and ‘The Landlady’, Hunter and Dahl, have created two texts with similar themes, but with varying execution of techniques. ‘The Landlady’ begins inconspicuously, with a young travelling man searching for a hotel. Like a true ominous tale, it builds the tension slowly, through means of foreshadowing and symbolism. Through the usage of sentences from the Landlady, such as, “I knew you would”, Dahl enlightens the reader with the general sense of consciousness to danger. The technique of unusual illustrations engages the active reader. Comparably, Hunter has built tension, starting early in the story with strong figurative language of gloom and misfortune. This technique brings great imagery, which allowed the reader to picture easily, and feel close to the story. For example, “The touch, icy cold across her breasts” and “cottonwool silence”, are passionately detailed, which left the reader feeling immensely connected.
The authors have, respectively, provided two controlled, alike sinister stories that arouse emotions and sympathies. The structure of each story is quite different, although each story is about one character and their vulnerability through their peculiar happenings while alone on a cold night. Both Hunter and Dahl do not back up their endings with extensive support. They end their narratives obscurely by leaving the active readers wondering and unknown to what happens to the main characters. This opens questions and leaves their truly sinister short stories a mystery.
Courtney from Study Moose