The Landlady and Lamb to the Slaughter

The Landlady and Lamb to the Slaughter written by Roald Dahl, an important setting is the households. They show us the importance of appearance vs. reality, as they show how things can often be different to how they seem, and that we can be easily deceived if we are too reliant on looks. This is shown through techniques such as irony, listing and adjectives. The Landlady is a story about a young man who believes he has found a safe place to stay, when in fact it is one of the most dangerous places for him.

Appearance vs. reality is shown in The Landlady through the Bed and Breakfast or the Landlady’s home. It seems the same as all the other houses on the street, not arousing any suspicion in Billy about that particular one. In fact, Dahl hints that Billy may have been able to pass by the house completely if he had not caught sight of a notice in the downstairs window that was “brilliantly illuminated”. As this catches Billy’s attention, he also notices many other appealing aspects of this Bed and Breakfast, such as “yellow chrysanthemums… green velvet curtains… a bright fire… a pretty little dachshund”.

These adjectives lull Billy in to a sense of security and peace, making him feel that this will be a safe place to stay. The technique of listing all these features makes it easy for us to imagine what Billy sees, and understand how he could have been deluded in to thinking it would be a pleasant place, when it is actually a formidable place for him. He only realises this too late, though we can later realise clues Dahl has left: “There were no other hats or coats in the hall. There were no umbrellas, no walking sticks—nothing” which would be odd at a social establishment like a Bed and Breakfast.

These subtle connotations make us realise how we can miss out details, realise them later but only once it’s too late to do anything. It shows how if we are perceptive seeing the reality and appearance we can avoid getting into situations that we can’t get out of. Lamb to the Slaughter is a story about Mary Maloney who is just a normal housewife. However, when she finds out her husband plans to leave her something within her changes and she kills him with a leg of lamb. In Lamb to the Slaughter, appearance vs. reality is shown through Mary Maloney’s house.

The middle class, cosy home reflects Mary Maloney herself; harmless and gentle on the outside. The setting makes us feel comfortable, not alerting us to anything out of the ordinary; the calm, carefully made home seeming to be the last place a murder could occur. As the house resembles the owner, it is easy to see the way Mary managed to keep the police from suspecting her. When the police come to solve the homicide, they believe that the weapon is “probably right under their noses”. The technique of irony makes us see how easily Mary is able to fool the police officers, reacting in a normal manner to something as horrific as murder.

Irony enables us to see what the officers must be thinking, and understand how they are completely right about the murder weapon being under their noses, however they have no idea how on track they are. The setting is ironic as crimes are often portrayed in alleyways and lower class neighbourhoods, not in ordinary middle class homes. The reality of murder happening in a decent neighbourhood, to a seemingly happy family shows us how our view of things can be distorted by movies and books. Because Patrick was their co-worker the police are probably familiar with the house and Mary, making them unable to see that everything is almost too normal.

We can see how important it is to remain unbiased, and not dismiss people we know and settings that seem ordinary, as they can be hiding things within. The message of appearance vs. reality is highlighted through the settings, both houses making us feel comfortable. In The Landlady, her home makes us feel like Billy is visiting a well looked after home of “the mother of one’s best school friend”. In Lamb to the Slaughter, Mary Maloney’s home is warm, with everything in its rightful place. It is modest and seems like the kind of home any caring wife would want to make for her husband.

Both settings seem to be nothing out of the ordinary, hiding the fact that terrible things can go on there. The adjectives used to describe the houses show us how normal and attractive the houses seem: “Certainly it would be more comfortable than The Bell and Dragon. ” A difference between the stories is that Dahl hints that there is something wrong about the Landlady’s house, outlining things that make us feel slightly uncomfortable, warning us that things aren’t as they seem; whereas Mary Maloney’s house is described extremely normally, almost too normally.

Though Dahl does leave some clues in Lamb to the Slaughter, we don’t notice them until we know what has happened. Both homes are certainly very loved, as they are the places where the protagonists reside with their loved ones,  dead or alive. They are seemingly perfect homes, were one would feel adored and comfortable. Both settings are places where we wouldn’t think murders would take place, such as the “House of Horrors”. While 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester was not in a “good area”, the residents of the Victorian semi-detached house seemed like a perfectly normal couple.

However, this is where the occupants Fred and Rose West were able to murder at least eleven girls and young women. This shows how criminals we have underestimated like Mary Maloney and the Landlady can hide in places where we would least expect to find a killer, making the most of our assumptions. In conclusion, the settings in both Lamb to the Slaughter and The Landlady are important. They help us understand how things are not always how they seem, and that we can underestimate things that seem ordinary. They show us the importance of appearance vs. reality through techniques such as adjectives, irony and listing.

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