"The Landlady" and Other Short Stories

"The Landlady" and Other Short Stories Character List

The young man ("An African Story")

The young man is a white hunter living in Kenya Colony who loves nature and exploration. He enlists in the Royal Air Force during World War II, but instead of training for his missions, he flies to Nakuru to see the animal life. The young man is almost court-martialled after he tries to approach a Sable antelope and accidentally kills a giraffe. Six months later, while on his first cross-country mission, the young man's engine fails and he is forced to land near the old man's shack. He interacts with the old man and is so moved by the old man's strange story that he decides to write it down, casting the old man as a character. The young man is killed in training, and his friend finds this story in his belongings.

The old man ("An African Story")

The old man lives in a shack in the countryside. He is about 70 years old, but appears closer to 85 because of his rheumatism. He has grey facial hair covering his face, and only one side of his mouth moves when he talks. He also always wears a dirty white topee. The old man lives with Judson, his assistant. Judson breaks the back of the old man's dog because he cannot stand the animal's noises, and the old man puts down his dog to relieve the animal of his misery. This shows the old man's empathy towards animals, and begins the conflict between the old man and Judson. The old man notices that someone is stealing his cow's milk in the morning, and decides to stake out the thief. In the early morning, the old man sees a black Mamba creeping towards his cow and suckling the cow's milk. To exact revenge on Judson, the old man lies to Judson, saying he could not catch the thief, and asks Judson to conceal himself near the cow until dawn, and shoot the thief if necessary. Judson cannot stand the sound of the cow chewing grass, and jumps out of his cover as the Mamba approaches the cow. The Mamba bites Judson, killing him instantaneously, as the old man allows the Mamba to continue drinking the cow's milk. The old man has been alone for many months when the young man finds him, and he houses and feeds the young man. The old man tells the young man his strange story, and lifts a great weight off of his shoulders by doing so.

Judson ("An African Story")

Judson works for the old man. He is a tall, skinny man with black hair and a long, red face. Judson is perpetually sweaty and grimy, and is deeply bothered by animal noises, breaking the back of the old man's dog because the dog licks his paw, and almost jumping out of his cover because the old man's cow loudly chews grass. Judson is eventually killed by the black mamba.

Billy Weaver ("The Landlady")

Billy is the main character and protagonist in the story "The Landlady". He is 17 years old and looking for a cheap place to spend the night. He wanders into a boarding house owned by an old woman after being mesmerized by its sign, and he agrees to spend the night there. After Billy unpacks his things, the landlady asks him to sign her guestbook, and Billy realizes that he recognizes the names in the book, and that they seem to be connected in some way. He cannot remember how they are connected, but the landlady keeps asking him to drink some tea with her. As he drinks tea with the landlady, he realizes her pets are taxidermied, and that the tea has a bitter almond taste. Billy asks the landlady if she has had any visitors other than the two men in the guestbooks, and she replies that he is the only one.

The Landlady ("The Landlady")

The landlady is an old, friendly woman who invites Billy into her home. She invites Billy for some late night tea, and implores him to sign her guestbook. As the night goes on, she acts very strangely, insisting that Billy drink some tea with her, and refusing to directly answer any questions about the two men who have stayed in the boarding house. At the end of the story, the reader is left unsettled by the landlady's mysterious nature, her taxidermied pets, and her insistence that the two men who have come to her boarding house still live on the third floor.

Mary Maloney ("Lamb to the Slaughter")

Mary is a young, doting housewife who is six months pregnant. After her husband tells her he is going to leave her, she murders him with a leg of lamb. Almost immediately reaching mental clarity after the murder, Mary plots her alibi and practices her expressions in a mirror. Then, she runs to the grocery store, pretends to buy food for dinner and returns home, placing the leg of lamb in the oven. She then calls the police about her husband's murder. Mary continues to act like she is grieving as the police search her home for the murder weapon. Once the leg of lamb cooks, Mary insists that the policemen have the leg for dinner, and they unwittingly consume the murder weapon.

Mary's character makes an immense change from the beginning of the story to the end, as she becomes significantly more calculating, fooling the detectives with her elaborate act. By removing the evidence and feeding it to the policemen, Mary is able to escape arrest and conviction for her husband's murder.

Uncle Oswald ("The Visitor")

In "The Visitor," Uncle Oswald is portrayed as a shameless philanderer, hypochondriac, and wealthy and cultured traveler and collector. Oswald enjoys collecting spiders, scorpions, and walking sticks, and has a passion for Chinese vases. Oswald cannot maintain interest in a woman for more than twelve hours, and this drives his exploits and passions. While in Cairo, Oswald attempts to seduce the mistress of a prominent royal official, but is nearly captured by the official's guards. He then plans to travel to Jerusalem, but gets stuck in a small town after his fan belt breaks. Abdul Aziz, a wealthy man who passes the gas station, takes in Oswald. Oswald immediately tries to seduce Abdul's wife and daughter. Late at night, someone visits Oswald and in the morning Oswald is unsure whether it was Abdul's wife or daughter. Abdul drives Oswald back to his car, sharing that he has a second daughter, a leper who hides from guests. Oswald shakes as he leaves Abdul's car, realizing that he may have slept with Abdul's leprous daughter and contracted leprosy.

Drioli ("Skin")

In April of 1946, an old man named Drioli passes by an art gallery where he sees several paintings by his old friend Chaim Soutine. In 1913, Drioli is a tattoo artist in Paris who is close friends with Chaim. After tattooing 9 clients in one day, Drioli buys a large amount of wine, and drunkenly asks Chaim to tattoo a picture on his back. Chaim agrees and paints and tattoos a lavish portrait of Josie, Drioli's wife.

After World War I, Drioli loses contact with Soutine, and moves to Le Havre to tattoo sailors. After World War II, Drioli loses his business and returns to Paris hoping to find work. He fails to open a tattoo parlor, but remembers his own tattoo and decides to enter the gallery. After the gallery hosts accost him, he runs through the gallery and reveals he has a tattoo from the artist. Several people ask to buy the tattoo, and a man with a canary glove offers to show the painting in his hotel, the Hotel Bristol in Cannes, if Drioli will come with him.

A few weeks later a painting with the same description as Drioli's tattoo is put up for sale in Buenos Aires, and the narrator reveals that there is no Hotel Bristol in Cannes.

Chaim Soutine ("Skin")

In "Skin," Chaim Soutine is a young artist who is unable to pay his bills with his artwork. The young man is in love with Drioli's wife, Josie, and agrees to tattoo a portrait of Josie on Drioli's back. Drioli then finds Chaim's work in a prominent gallery.

Abdul Aziz ("The Visitor")

Abdul Aziz is a kind, wealthy man that takes in Oswald. Abdul has a beautiful wife and two daughters, and he lives in the desert to protect his beautiful daughter from potential suitors, and his leprous daughter from outside observers.

Mr. Foster ("The Way Up To Heaven")

Mr. Foster is a man approaching 70 who seems to take a sick pleasure from torturing his wife with his chronic lateness. While his wife is attempting to fly to Paris to see their daughter, he continuously conspires to make her late. When Mrs. Foster's first plane is rescheduled due to fog, she must return home. On the following day, Mr. Foster approaches the chauffeur excessively late, insisting that the chauffeur drop him at the club before driving to the airport before running back to the house to pick up a gift that he hopes to give Mrs. Foster. Eventually, Mrs. Foster leaves him behind, driving to the airport, and likely leaving him stranded in a broken elevator.

The doctor ("Genesis and Catastrophe")

The doctor in "Genesis and Catastrophe" continues to reassure Klara that her newborn child will live, even though he is very small. The doctor comforts Klara, and helps her choose the name Adolf for her baby.

Frau Klara Hitler ("Genesis and Catastrophe")

Klara is Adolf Hitler's mother. She recounts how she has lost 3 children in 18 months, and how she believes her newborn will soon die as well. At first, she cannot bear to look at the child, but she eventually begins to play with him.

Herr Alois Hitler ("Genesis and Catastrophe")

Herr Hitler is Adolf Hitler's father. He is described as a drunk with a bad reputation who has had three wives—one who died, one who he divorced, and his current wife, Klara. Alois moves Klara to Braunau shortly after the death of their third child, and is described as "jerky" in his movements.

Mrs. Foster ("The Way Up to Heaven")

Mrs. Foster is an obedient wife who has an extreme fear of being late, to the point where her left eye twitches uncontrollably whenever she is running late. She convinces her husband to allow her to visit their daughter in Paris for six weeks in order to meet her three grandchildren. As her husband continues plotting to make her late, Mrs. Foster grows more restless, especially after her flight to Paris is rescheduled to the following morning because of fog. The following day, her husband runs extremely late, insisting that they drive to the club first, and seemingly stuffing a gift deep into the cushions of the car in order to make her miss her flight. When she runs to their front door to catch him, she hears a strange noise, and commands the chauffeur to drive to the airport instead of waiting for her husband. She makes her flight right on time, and spends six weeks in Paris with her daughter. When she returns home, she calls the elevator repairman, as her elevator is stuck between the 2nd and 3rd floors.

Peter Williamson ("Beware of the Dog")

Peter Williamson is a young fighter pilot who loses his leg in combat. After launching his parachute, he falls to the ground, and wakes up in a hospital. The nurse tells him he is in Brighton. He becomes mesmerized by a fly on the wall until he starts to hear Junkers 88 bomber planes in the distance. Peter tells the nurse what he hears, but she laughs it off. When the nurse bathes him, he notices the hard water, and remembers the incredibly soft water in Brighton during his youth. He decides to look out the window to confirm his suspicions, and after crawling to the window, he looks out and sees a sign that says "Garde au chien." He realizes that he is in France and that he has been captured, and when a Wing Commander comes to visit him, he remembers what his Intelligence Officer told him, and only repeats his name, rank, and number.

The nurse ("Beware of the Dog")

The nurse in "Beware of the Dog" takes care of Peter while he is in the hospital. She laughs off Peter's concerns about hearing German planes, and Peter eventually notices that she is acting very nervous and unsettled.

The Narrator ("Man from the South")

An English-speaking man visiting Jamaica who meets the old man while lounging on the beach. The narrator insists that the cadet not engage in the old man's game, but the cadet agrees to the bet, and the narrator agrees to be the referee.

Carlos ("Man from the South")

An old man of about 68 or 70, possibly of South American origin, who wears an immaculate white suit. He makes a bet with the cadet that if he can light his lighter 10 times in a row without failing, he can win a Cadillac. If the cadet loses, he will lose a finger. Carlos begins the bet, but is stopped by a woman who claims to have won everything that Carlos owned.

The American cadet ("Man from the South")

The American naval cadet is about 19 or 20 and has freckles and red hair. He sits near the old man and the narrator and offers to light the old man's cigar. The old man refuses, claiming the light will not work, and the old man makes a bet with the cadet that if he can light his lighter ten times in a row without fail, he will win a Cadillac. If he loses the bet, he will lose his little finger. The cadet refuses at first, then agrees to take on the bet. After he lights the lighter 8 times in a row, he is stopped by someone who claims that she won everything the old man was ever worth.

Adolf Knipe ("The Great Automatic Grammatizator")

Adolf Knipe is a young inventor who dreams of becoming a writer. While on a break from work, Knipe drafts the plans for a machine that will automatically generate publishable short stories, deciding that he can get published and revenge himself upon his greatest enemies. He brings his plans to his boss, and his boss eventually agrees to help him build the machine. Within six months the machine is ready, and Adolph begins to publish several stories through a literary agency he creates. Knipe grows greedier, inventing a novel-generator. Once he gets the machine working, Knipe comes up with a list of prominent authors, and drafts contracts proposing to them never to write again in exchange for profit from the novels the machine generates. By the end of the year, Knipe's literary agency generates half of the published novels in the United States.

John Bohlen ("The Great Automatic Grammatizator")

Bohlen is Adolph Knipe's boss. Though he sees Knipe as a disheveled and drooping man, he agrees to join Knipe in creating the machine. Bohlen begins to get published, but upon realizing that Knipe is more acclaimed, he demands Knipe create a novel-generator. After Bohlen publishes his first novel, he is content with their business. But, Knipe sets out to gain even more money and prominence.

The narrator ("The Great Automatic Grammatizator")

The narrator is a poor writer trying to feed nine children. The narrator is tempted by Knipe's contract but does not sign it.