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How effective is Dahl's use of subtext in his short stories?

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Introduction

How effective is Dahl's use of subtext in his short stories? By Kelly Webster Subtext is anything that is indirectly communicated to the reader. It can be conveyed in many ways, such as sounds, objects, jokes, colours and temperatures. Subtext expresses a meaning in a subliminal manner. In Roald Dahl's short stories he uses subtext to display the meanings and feelings that are hidden. In 'The Landlady' Dahl uses subtext to convey the true evil behind the landlady's homely exterior. The animals in the boarding house are thought of to be a good feature. 'Animals were usually a good sign in a place like this'. This is ironic because the animals are dead and stuffed. When Billy Weaver first walked into the house he noticed that there was only his coat in the hallway. 'There were no other hats or coats in the hall'. This is subtext because it suggests that the house is empty. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore it is suggested that the guests are no longer there. The landlady is an unconventional monster in this horror story. 'She looked exactly like the mother of one's best school-friend' explains that this woman seemed sweet and familiar to Billy. Her role in the story is reversed when it is revealed that she is in fact a cold killer. The landlady acts very strangely towards Billy, 'her blue eyes travelled slowly all the way down the length of Billy's body'. The landlady's ayes are described as blue. Blue eyes are not usually associated with evil so this makes her seem an irregular villain in the story. The way she looks at him suggests a wicked look but the 'blue eyes' eliminates the evil. Also the way she watches him creates an eerie image, 'he could feel her eyes resting on his face, watching him over the rim of her tea-cup'. ...read more.

Conclusion

The whisky is used to build up the tension. It is used throughout the story. When Patrick first goes home Mary makes him a drink and after she kills him the police get Mary a drink. Patrick also downs his drink in one, 'he did an unusual thing. He lifted his glass and drained it.' Mary uses a frozen leg of lamb to kill her husband. The fact that it is frozen symbolizes death because a cold temperature is subtext for death. After she kills her husband Mary knits. The knitting needles represent weapons subtextually. Both murderers have similarities. Mary and the Landlady both have very feminine features. They both have blue eyes. They are also both innocent on first impressions and are neat and tidy and very precise. Their body language is comforting and they seem unthreatening because they both have connections to children. Mary is pregnant and the Landlady is linked with children because 'she seems like the mother of one's best school friend'. It lures you into a false sense of security. ...read more.

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