"The Landlady" Poetry Commentary

Essay by torontoIBstudentHigh School, 11th gradeA, July 2005

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Margaret Atwood's theme in The Landlady is about the speaker's prison-like living situation in what can be assumed to be a dorm. The landlady has made home, the place where we can feel free and comfortable, to a suffering sentence. The landlady is sin control, and the speaker, a young university student, cannot escape from the landlady, physically nor mentally.

The Landlady is effectively written in free verse and is a run-on style of poetry, allowing the readers emotions and thoughts to carry to the next line all the way to the end of the poem. The poem runs for 9 stanzas, all of which vary in the number of lines. The shorter stanzas are in the beginning and in the end; where as the larger stanzas are in the middle. The poem begins and ends with a one line stanza, the first one being a full sentence, where as the last line finishing off the sentence of the 8th stanza.

The first line compares the landlady to an animal, a mean dangerous one, as the landlady is said to have a "lair", and the last line makes reference to animal, as well, as Atwood uses the word "bacon". After the first stanza, or line, there is one three-line stanza, followed by a four-line stanza, then a five-line stanza, but then cuts back down to a four-line stanza, jumping to a six-line stanza, repeating a six-line stanza, then a four-line stanza, and finishing off with a one-line stanza. There really seems to be no pattern, except for chaos, and no sense of order. However, in stanza six, it has senses which are in order, first sounds ("raw voice" "slams...doors"), then smells (intrusive as the smells that bulge in under my doorsill"), and then sight ("a bulk", "blocking my way").