The short story “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl is an example of horror fiction.
The aim of horror stories is to frighten or shock readers by describing or suggesting terrifying events. Suspense plays an important part in such stories. In the case of this story, the suspense derives not from the reaction of the main character (who fails to realize what is happening to him), but from the clues which the reader is able to figure out from the text. In a way, the story relies on the readers’ own imagination to scare them.
Horror stories often contain supernatural elements. In this case, Billy’s decision to enter the house despite having decided to go to the Bell and Dragon first is unexplained, almost magical (ll. 100-112).
The abrupt ending is another typical horror-story element. The lack of a clear resolution means that the reader has to try and imagine the outcome, again relying on their own imagination to provide the most frightening scenario.
Works with the same theme or by the same author
The short story “The Fly-Paper” by Elizabeth Taylor also has the theme of appearance vs. reality. Both stories feature unlikely villains who appear harmless and motherly but prove to be murderers. Unlike in “The Landlady”, where Billy remains unaware of the danger, in “The Fly-Paper”, Sylvia eventually realizes the deception, although, by then, it is too late.
The short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl features a woman who murders her husband with the frozen leg of a lamb, which she then cooks and feeds to the policemen who come to investigate the murder. Both “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Landlady” feature an unlikely murderer. The theme of deception is also central to both stories....