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“The Landlady” by Roald Dahl and “The Open Window” by Saki

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The two stories that are being compared are “the landlady” by Roald Dahl and “the open window” by Saki. Both stories are earlier than the middle twentieth century. The two short stories have many similarity and difference in dealing with suspense and deception.

The narrative perspective of both stories are both omniscient and in 3rd person narrative. Despite being omniscient, both narrators gives limited knowledge to the reader. They reveals the story bit by bit creating suspense. For example, in the landlady, the narrator hinted throughout the story what is going to happen to Billy, the “bitter almond smell and taste” in his cup of tea and stressed placed on how the “stuffed” animals that have ironically invited him into to the house. Whereas, in the story, “the open window”, the narrator tips off the reader by hinting things like, how Mr. Framton is, his problems, ect. The narrator is an intrusive one, he gives his own opinions to the reader like “self-possessed young lady”. This creates foreshadowing and suspense in the story. Also the narrator may deceive us with his dropping of hints and clues.

The settings of both stories are very important to the way how suspense and deception are created.

In “the landlady”, it happened during the night. The author uses sympathetic background grab the reader’s attention. During the night, many crimes are committed, murders, killing ect. Also the night setting helps the landlady to get hold Billy’s attention using warm fires and charmingly arranged “willows” and pets. Raold Dahl also uses real places in England to help the readers to relate to themselves.

In “the open window”, Saki also uses sympathetic background to enhance the suspense and the plot of the story, the setting was in an imaginary “rural retreat” with “marshes” and “moor”, just the right place to bring on a chain of unfortunate events. Especially in the marches, it is a place for deception. In the marshes, the soil are wet, gluey, soft and loose allowing any unsuspecting victim to be swallowed whole by the marshes, like what Vera said in her spinning tale.

Both authors have similar use of the setting to enhance their suspense and deception.

The major part of the suspension and deception was developed by the plot and characters in the stories.

In the introduction, for both of the stories, the author hooked our attention very quickly so as to create immediate suspense. For example in “the landlady”, we were immediately told of Billy’s dilemma of choosing to go to a hotel. Suspense is first ignited by Billy’s attraction to a sign printed on a bed and breakfast. Initially the style, in which the author writes ‘BED AND BREAKFAST’, is suspicious, reading that, the words don’t role of your tongue, printed capital letters are usually associated with a warning. After introducing the ‘BED AND BREAKFAST’ Raold Dahl then begins to paint a picture of a comfortable homely residence, a fire burning, green curtains. Also, Billy saw a lovely parrot and a “pretty dachshund” curling in front of the fire. This was what initially deceived Billy into going to the landlady’s house.

In “the open window”, Saki, hooked the reader’s attention using Vera, strange and self possessed, said, ” ‘in the meantime you must try and put up with me.'” The reader would be intrigued to find out what will happen to Framton.

In the development, both stories built up the suspense very quickly.

In the “landlady”, the author chooses to use italics to emphasis words that are mostly hints to be recognized by reader. For example, when Billy pressed the bell, then “at once” the door opened. Roald Dhal want the readers to realize that was something abnormal. He builds up the tension bit by bit, dropping clues throughout the whole plot. For example, the clues like, the small white hands which hints of the chemical used by the old lady to stuff the pets, and her tattletale sign of her red fingernail which seems to be painted with the blood of those whom she had murdered. Also, there she told him of how one of her guest didn’t have a single “blemish” on his body. How could she have found out unless by malevolent means. There was irony as to what Billy thinks about the landlady, he described her as “slightly dotty”. He got one part right and that was crazy but the other part landed him in trouble. The landlady is very much crazy not just slightly as the reader discovers what was the real intention behind those endearments. We the readers are slightly less na�ve than Billy by the author still gets the last laugh. He refused to give us a satisfying resolution. We will never know for sure if Billy is really stuffed by the dotty old woman. There wasn’t really a twist in the end as all the clues come together. Rather, it gives a reader a small shock as they see the story finish.

In “the open window”, Saki gives the reader clues as well, however, not as many as Roald Dahl. Some examples of hints that plants a sees of doubt in the reader’s mind, which slightly prepares the reader for the ending. Framton’s feeling were shown before and when Vera narrates the story, he finds the house to suggest “masculine habitation” and felt that in a place, a “tragedy” seemed out of place. As Saki gives little clue as to about what was to happen, we as well as Framton are deceived by Vera’s narration about how her “poor dear aunt” always hoping that her uncles who had went hunting will come back. Vera’s utilization of poor dear aunt was ironic as, firstly, when her aunt came into the room, she did not look like she is a weeping widower yet the way how Vera has unfairly twisted and lied to her aunt. The story have a very satisfying ending as to what happened after the climax.

The characters are a major part of deceit in the story. In “the landlady”, Billy is deceived by the landlady kind demeanor and her exterior looks, she had “rosy cheeks” and kind blue eyes. The main theme of this story was that we cannot trust people’s appearance as many were very deceitful. The story tells us that our trust in the landlady can be easily deceived by her looks. While the character of Billy was mostly told to us by the narrator, the landlady is mostly shown by her looks and language throughout the story. On the outside, the landlady is a kind but slightly dotty, but on the inside, she tends more to be the evil lady who stuffs all her “pets” which refers both the guests and her parrot and dog. We easily trusts Billy and the trust was maintained. However for the landlady, initially, we were shown, and our trust in her builds, but it was slowly broken down by Roald Dahl’s hints of her interior motives. This creates suspense and tension in the story when we realize how the landlady deceives Billy.

In “the open window”, Framton was deceived by Vera. Vera’s names was very ironic as “Vera” means the truth, yet, she said everything but the truth. She seemed by a well-educated lady coming down to entertain Framton, however, she deceived him as well as the reader by her narration. Like in “the landlady”, the protagonist is told whereas the antagonist is shown. Framton is shown to be a nervous person and was sent down by her sister for a nerve treatment. Vera has deceived the reader as well as Framton. We followed her story throughout and only in the end we realized the truth. The last line, “romance at short notice was her specialty”. Romance in this context means fiction and lies as we might already have derived from the way she lied to both Framton and her aunt, having the last laugh twice.

According to me, I prefer “the landlady” because the suspense and tension is never resolved. The story doesn’t have a satisfying ending. Roald Dahl had left us hanging in suspense. I remember thinking about it long after I have finished reading. However, in “the open window” the story is fully resolved and we no longer wonder what is happening next.

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