Analysis of two stories from Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected Essay
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The story is about an old lady, Mrs. Foster, who doesn’t like to be late. Her husband teases her by always being a little bit too late, just to make her suffer. One day, she is going to Paris to see her daughter and her family, but she has to wait for her husband to be done, because he is driving with her, to be dropped off at a club. When he finally out in the car with her, he has forgot his present for her daughter, so he goes back into the house to get it.
She goes up to the door of their house, but when she is about to open it, she suddenly hears a strange sound and goes back into the car. She tells the driver to go, even though; Mr. Foster is still in the house. She catches her plane and enjoys her time in Paris, but when she gets back home, after six weeks, there is no lead of Mr. Foster. Then she calls a guy, which can come and fix their lift.
You would think that Mrs. Foster is the main character in this story, because we are following her life and the story starts up with an introduction of her. But at the same time, we are also introduced to Mr. Foster right after, and in the end of the story, you wonder if it actually was Mr. Foster, that we were supposed to keep up with, because he is kind of the victim in the end. Almost like we are told about how he died in their lift, because of his lunatic of a wife. And then still Mrs. Foster can be seen as the victim, because she is this sad woman, who is manipulated by her husband, and then finally does what she has always wanted to do, just in a more drastic way. So therefore I see them both as main characters in this story.
Mrs. Foster is described in the text as a woman with a pathological fear of missing something, and if she feels that she is about to miss something, she gets into a state of nerves and starts to “wink” with her left eye, because of a vellicating muscle in the corner of her eye. She lives in a large six-storey house in New York City, on East Sixty-Second Street with her husband and they have four servants. She is also a modest woman, who has served his husband loyally and well, for over thirty years, but she still wonders sometimes, if his husband always is being late on purpose, just to torture her. Her biggest wish is to live in Paris, so she can see her daughter, her son in law and her grandchildren all the time.
Mr. Foster is nearly seventy years old and also living with his wife in their large six-storey house. He is described in the text as a man who tortures her wife, by always being late, because he is irritated by her making a fuss about everything. And he smokes cigars.
We can tell by their big house, their four servants and their rented car with a chauffeur, that they are a very wealthy couple.
They don’t speak to each other like a normal couple; Mr. Foster has disciplined Mrs. Foster to not say, what she wants to say, like she is under his control. Like it says in the text; “that she would never dare to call out and tell him to hurry. He had disciplined her too well for that.”
The story is about a young man, Billy Weaver, who has travelled down from London, and now he needs a place to sleep. He was told that he should try “The bell and dragon”, but on his way down to the hotel, he suddenly catches sight of a printed notice, that says “BED AND BREAKFAST” on a boarding house. He stares at the notice and feels like the words are a large black eye that is staring at him, like he is forced to go in, so he decides to do it. A middle-aged woman invites him in and shows him where he is going to sleep, and she keeps talking about how she has been waiting for a young boy like him.
He later finds out, when he is about to write in her guestbook, that only two other guys has been staying there, and the latest guest is over two years ago. He finds it strange that he feels like he has heard these two guys’ names before. She keeps getting him to drink her tee, and then he suddenly notices that the dog he thought was alive is dead and stuffed. She tells him that she has stuffed them herself. When he sits for a moment, he finds out where he has heard the other guests’ names before, he has read about them being missing, in the newspaper.
The main character in this story is definitely Billy Weaver, because we are following his moves and thoughts of the weird lady.
Billy Weaver is seventeen years old and he has travelled from London. He is wearing a navy-blue overcoat, a brown trilby hat and a brown suit. He is a young businessman and he is trying to do everything briskly. When he is told that there has only been two guests before him and that the last guest was over two years ago, and that they are even still living there, he is a bit naï¿½ve not to see that something is really weird. But you also know that he must be a smart kid, if he is already a businessman and he reads the newspaper.
The old lady seems kind and harmless in the beginning, because she is calling him “my dear” and smiling all the time. And like it says in the text; “She looked exactly like the mother of one’s best school-friend welcoming one into the house to stay for the Christmas holidays.” But when things get more and more weird, Billy starts to think that she is slightly dotty and off her rocker. We also know that she has a bad memory, because she has a hard time remembering her guests’ names.
Billy and the old lady have no relation, the old lady is a total stranger to Billy, but he somehow seems to trust her anyway. And Billy is also a total stranger to the old lady, but she keeps talking like if she knew that exactly he would show up on her doorstep, almost like if she had been watching him.
Comparison of the two stories
Both stories are written by an omniscient 3rd person. And in both of the stories they are using the language “dear”; In “The landlady” the old lady probably uses it, because many British old women spoke like that in the old days, but also to sound extra kind, to Billy. And in “The way up to heaven, it sounds like they are only using it because the finer families spoke like that in the old days. So both of the stories could be going on in, maybe the 50’s. Mrs. Foster and the landlady are both killers, but really different kinds; Mrs. Foster is feeling trapped in her marriage and she has a “fair” reason not to save him, when she has the chance. And the landlady is simply a lonely lunatic, who wants fake company, by stuffing her victims. The landlady is killing them herself and Mrs. Foster just didn’t save him, when she could. The main theme in both of the stories is deception, because in both of the stories, the victims have faith in their killers, but are duped by them.
The ending of “The landlady”
Then he said “Are you sure Mulholland and Temple are upstairs?” with a stiff look on his face. “Of course they are, my dear. I’m sure they are enjoying themselves, you shouldn’t worry that much.” She answered. Billy’s eyes flickered and his legs felt so heavy, when he tried to stand up. “Sit down, my dear. It will soon be over” she said, with a calm tone in her voice, like nothing was wrong. Billy couldn’t walk, so he sat down again and tried to hold his head still. “Something is wrong with me! What did you give me?” he yelled with a pathetic voice.
She smiled and went over to the windows to draw the curtains, and when she sat down again, she started telling him, that she had been looking forward to having such a young boy in the house, and that she had been waiting for him for such a long time. “Why do you want me, you crazy woman?” he said. “You’re just perfect, my dear. So young and handsome!” she said, still witch a nice and calming voice. Billy didn’t get to say much more, before everything turned black.
One month later… “MISSING! A seventeen year old boy named Billy Weaver, last seen in Bath.”