Roald Dahl was born in Norway in 1916. His father died when he was young and his mother sent him to school in England.
After his education in England, Dahl started to write short stories, for which he is now well known. H.G. Wells was born in Bromley, Kent in 1866.
After working as a schoolteacher he won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science. He received a first class honours degree in biology and resumed teaching, but had to retire due to injury. He then experimented with journalism and stories. It was ‘The Time Machine’ that started Wells’ career as an author.In both ‘The Landlady’ and ‘The Invisible Man’ the character of each title is a villain who is either already mad or who becomes mad. H.
G. Wells wrote ‘The Invisible Man’ in 1897; it is about a fanatical scientist who makes himself invisible and uses his power to inflict a ‘ Reign of Terror’ on the local community. ‘The Landlady’ was written by Dahl in 1959, about a seemingly kind old lady who has a hobby of taxidermy – and whose subjects include handsome young men who come to her house seeking lodgings.’The Invisible Man’ is a full-length novel whereas ‘The Landlady’ is a short story.
This means that Wells had plenty of time to develop his story line and characters but Dahl had to do all this, and build up tension, in the much more restricted form of the short story. In ‘The Invisible Man’ the story is concluded with the death of the invisible man but at the end of ‘The Landlady’ t...
he reader is left to work out what happens for himself, and his imagination must supply the events that follow. This would have seemed strange to readers of H G Wells’ era, but it works well with the short story form and makes ‘The Landlady’ more sinister than ‘The Invisible Man’ because there is no end to the evil.In ‘The Invisible Man’, the main character, Griffin, is a fanatical albino scientist who goes mad after making himself invisible. Wells made Griffin an albino for two reasons: it fits in well with the removal of all pigments that has to be done to make Griffin invisible, thus making the plot more plausible; and it also makes him different from other men. Griffin is a very mysterious character; his name isn’t even revealed until about half way through the book (chapter seventeen) and the events that lead up to and the causes of his invisibility aren’t revealed until chapter nineteen.
This means that for most of the book the reader knows nothing of the invisible man’s past. This mysteriousness, together with the stranger’s abrupt and irascible manner, causes great curiosity and some suspicion in the local community. This leads to the eventual discovery of his invisibility and the ensuing panic. Although Wells has made his readers aware of Griffin’s invisibility, he gives no explanation of this, and so we also find him sinister. Wells makes Griffin an unpleasant character: “aggressive and explosive”, and his appearance, with “goggling spectacles and ghastly bandaged face” was such that:”Children
as saw him at nightfall dreamt of bogies.
“Because Wells describes Griffin in such unpleasant terms, that the reader finds it difficult to empathise with him even though “he was a man suffering under almost unendurable provocation”. He is frightening rather than pathetic.Wells describes the villagers as being very parochial; this highlights the differences between them and the invisible stranger. Their characters are not well developed by Wells, and even Mr and Mrs Hall share the same character profile as the rest of the villagers – a broad accent and ignorance of the outside world. The villagers are almost comical; they blunder about and trip over one another in their efforts to avoid the Invisible Man and are all of limited intelligence.
They are no match for the invisible “experimental investigator”, especially as Wells tells us that he is physically very powerful. The fact that he is so much more powerful than them makes him scary.The only other character of any weight is Dr Kemp. Griffin and Kemp had known each other as students, and Griffin assumes that Kemp will help him to establish his ‘Reign of Terror’.
Kemp is the only character who is Griffin’s intellectual equal and so when Kemp lets Griffin slip from his grasp, the threat from Griffin’s increasing madness becomes much more frightening, and we can imagine Griffin carrying through his intentions to kill anyone who stands in his way. However, we assume that in a novel of this period this evil man will be stopped and good will triumph.The first character we meet in ‘The Landlady’ is Billy Weaver. Billy is a young boy of seventeen years of age; he is a junior employee who has travelled down from London to Bath on business. He is a very naï¿½ve young man who is fresh into the world of work and is hoping to make his way to the top. When Dahl is writing from Billy’s viewpoint he uses lots of adjectives and superlatives, illustrating Billy’s youthful enthusiasm.
“The big shots up at head office were absolutely fantastically brisk all the time.”Billy’s innocence makes him very vulnerable and this makes the reader fear for him. He naturally thinks the best of people – although the landlady appears to be “slightly off her rocker”, he is sure that she is “quite obviously a kind and generous soul.” This is ironic, as her motives are far from kindly. He refuses to be put off by the landlady’s odd behaviour.Dahl gives the reader lots of clues as to the landlady’s true character, as when she appears too quickly in response to Weaver’s ring:”This dame was like a jack-in-the-box”The use of this simile gives the reader a ‘jumpy’ feeling and adds to the gradually building tension.
We are told that the landlady has “a round pink face and very gentle blue eyes”, but these same blue eyes travel “slowly all the way down the length of Billy’s body, to his feet, and then up again.” This is creepy. She talks of her last young lodger in the past tense, but when questioned by Billy as to when he left, says”But my
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