The Landlady

The Landlady

By Margaret Atwood

This is the lair of the landlady

She is
a raw voice
loose in the rooms beneath me.

the continuous henyard
squabble going on below
thought in this house like
the bicker of blood through the head.

She is everywhere, intrusive as the smells
that bulge in under my doorsill;
she presides over my
meagre eating, generates
the light for eyestrain.

From her I rent my time:
she slams
my days like doors.
Nothing is mine.

and when I dream images
of daring escapes through the snow
I find myself walking
always over a vast face
which is the land–
lady’s, and wake up shouting.

She is a bulk, a knot
swollen in a space. Though I have tried
to find some way around
her, my senses
are cluttered by perception
and can’t see through her.

She stands there, a raucous fact
blocking my way:
immutable, a slab
of what is real.

solid as bacon.

Summary of The Landlady

  • Popularity of “The Landlady”: When it comes to poetry, Margaret Atwood, the Canadian postmodern novelist, has also dabbled her fingers in poetry and has proved her superb skills in dealing with the same type of poetic subjects. This beautiful poem “The Landlady” first appeared in 1968 when she published her fifth poetic collection, The Animals in 1968. It is unclear why she put the landlady or other such characters in the collection having such a title. However, it is clear that she has demonstrated extreme disliking when painting the pen picture of such a landlady. The popularity of the poem rests on the presentation of the intrusive image of a landlady whose house she rented for a while.
  • “The Landlady” As a Representative of Exploiting House Owners: Margaret Atwood, the Canadian exponent of feminism, has suddenly shown the other side of her philosophical nature by presenting an exploitative landlady. She states that her house is like her den where she expresses her views in her rough voice, adding that she always bickers and squabbles in the lower portion of the house the poet has rented. She further states that her ubiquity rather embarrasses her so much so that she smells the lady everywhere and that she slams doors, torturing the poet. She wakes up the poet when she shouts and demonstrates her bulky body and appears at places where the poet least expects her. In fact, she has rather become her solid obsession – as “solid as bacon.”
  • Major Themes in “The Landlady”: The exploitation of house owners, the intrusiveness of house owners, and the torturing nature of landladies are major themes of this poem. Feminism does not mean supporting women even when they come down to torture people depending on them in some or the other way. The pen picture of this landlady is such that she has proved her exploitative nature when dealing with the poet that she makes a lot of noise, slams her doors, and enters her privacy when she least expects her, and yet she continues with this intrusiveness and does not let her take some hour of rest. Her intrusion into her private affairs becomes a knot and whenever the poet is about to forget, she reappears to torture her and is always a reality when illusions surround the poet.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in The Landlady

Margaret Atwood uses various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of her poem. Some of the major literary devices are as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ in “From her I rent my time” and the sound of /o/ in “To find some way around.”
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r/ and /s/ in “She is everywhere, intrusive as the smells” and the sound of /b/ and /d/ in “the bicker of blood through the head.”
  3. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Margaret Atwood used imagery in this poem, such as “the light for eyestrain”, “and when I dream images” and “of daring escapes through the snow.”
  4. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used the metaphor of raw voice for the lady. She also used other metaphors for her, comparing her to smell, a light, bulk, and a knot.
  5. Simile: It means to use direct comparison of things to understand the thing being compared. The poet used the simile of bacon, comparing the hardness of the lady.
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as lair, voice, doorsill, smell, and images to show the nagging lady and her bad habits.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in The Landlady

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal, poetic, and precise diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to write or use verses without any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. This poem is a free verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are seven stanzas of varying lengths in this poem with two one-liners.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an anguish through tortured, irritating, and frustrated tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about the torture of such torturing ladies.

She stands there, a raucous fact
blocking my way:
immutable, a slab
of what is real.
solid as bacon.