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Short Story Comparative Analysis of the Landlady and Crime and Punishment

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    The Landlady and Crime & Punishment are titled specifically so the authors can introduce and link the themes of the text. Dahl deliberately used the vague title ‘The Landlady’ to evoke the reader’s interest. Before the story begins we are already curious to know who this female character may be and what she is capable of. The title ‘The landlady’ serves a strong relationship with the plot of the story. Ulman used the title ‘Crime & Punishment’, which makes the reader assume that the genre of the story is crime, but this is not so.

    There is ‘crime and punishment’ in the narrative, but it is metaphorical. Both the landlady and crime & punishment fall under most conventions of the thriller and mystery genres. These genres are established predominantly by the author deliberately withholding important information in the plot. This ensures the readers stay on edge until the climax of the story. The use of short sentences in each narrative is also effective in establishing both genres as it helps build tension. Both stories also introduce the theme of horror through various conventions.

    Crime and Punishment begins in deliberately descriptive visual imagery, which intentionally uses themes that can be directly related with the horror genre. In The landlady, Dahl intentionally juxtaposes the sweet nature of a dear old lady with the horrific things she is capable of. This convention of the horror genre helps to intensify the fear felt by the reader as to what will happen next. Even though both narratives are similar in genre, crime and punishment differs because it also has the conventions of romance.

    This is shown after Janet jumps of the building and her husband surprisingly confesses that she was the ‘most important thing in his life’. The romance genre is mainly established through character dialogue. Both narratives are written in third person perspective. This perspective is an advantage to the reader as it allows us to see all and gain insight into multiple characters thoughts. Both authors focus on one character and the events that happen to them. This allows us as readers to make informed judgements of them and the characters they interact with. Dahl deliberately utilises the literary technique of foreshadowing, by ncluding strange dialogue and actions by the ‘Landlady’ for the reader to interpret. The main protagonist Billy remains oblivious that the woman is psychotic. The reader is positioned to interpret these signposts and assume that Billy Weaver is in an unfortunate situation. Ulman uses a parallel narrative to allow the reader to follow the different locations and actions of main protagonist ‘Janet’. By allowing the reader to follow two narrative strands involving the same character, the reader gains deeper insight to the controlling nature of Janet’s husband and why she tries to commit suicide.

    Both the Landlady and crime and punishment have climaxes, close to the resolution of the narratives. Both stories also have open endings that allow the reader to predict what happens next based on the signposts the author included in the text. In the Landlady, we can reasonably assume that Billy Weaver has just been poisoned and is about to be ‘stuffed’ by the taxidermist landlady even though the author does not depict this. In crime and punishment we can also reasonably assume that Janet’s husband is having an affair with the secretary while Janet is bed-ridden.

    This structure is also complementary to the genre because it maintains suspense and mystery. The Landlady has a regular short story structure with an orientation, a series or complications, a climax and a resolution. The orientation is followed by a very sharp and rapid rise in the sequence of complications. Crime & Punishment also has a regular short story structure. The rise from the sequence of complications to the climax is not as high as The Landlady. This is an important element for this narrative because it ensures the climax is unexpected.

    The language used in both short stories is an important factor in establishing the genre and supporting the themes within the plot. In both narratives, formal language is used in the dialogue between characters. In the landlady this is important for character construction. The language used by the lady is so polite, helpful and over the top that it is easy to pick up that she is hiding something. In crime & punishment, formal dialogue is used between the husband and wife to highlight the unnatural relationship they share.

    Dahl’s narrative follows chronological order, with simple sentences and descriptive language flowing from beginning to end. In comparison, Ulmans narrative is parallel, establishing two different scenarios of the one character. Janet’s thought processes are depicted as disjointed and off topic. This language style is helpful in maintaining an unexpected climax by losing the reader in the compulsive language of the protagonist. Various literary techniques are used in both narratives. Both authors strongly employ the technique of foreshadowing, which creates suspense by making the reader expectant of an interesting plot.

    Personification and visual imagery are both used as descriptive techniques, which allow the reader to mentally visualise the story they are reading. Juxtaposition is a technique utilised by Dahl to make the reader fear the initially sweet old landlady, because the cruelness she is capable of is unexpected. Dahl also uses repetition in the plot, when Billy recognises the names of the missing boys and continues to bring the topic up, because it establishes that there must be a link between the landlady and the missing persons.

    Ulman uses rhetorical questions in her narrative, so that it seems that the narrator is talking directly to the reader. This gives the story a new dimension as it invites the reader to consider the story on a more personal level. The landlady and Crime and Punishment are both examples of narratives that have the ability to provoke an emotional response from a reader, whether it may by fear, love or sympathy. Authors are able to directly manipulate the way a reader responds to a narrative by making specific and deliberate decisions in the construction of the story.

    Short Story Comparative Analysis of the Landlady and Crime and Punishment. (2017, Mar 22). Retrieved from

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