The Enemy


Pearl Buck

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The American Landlady Character Analysis

When Dr. Sadao Hoki moved to the United States for college, he struggled to find housing because he was Japanese. Only one landlady—“fat and slatternly”—welcomed him into her home. Instead of feeling grateful for her open-mindedness and generous spirit, Sadao “had despised the ignorant and dirty old woman” who “house[d] him in her miserable home.” Sadao implies that the woman was somewhat hesitant to accept Sadao as a tenant—she “at last consented” to welcome him into her home, which suggests racism on her end. However, his further reflections paint her as a kindly woman who was willing to help him when no one else would. Sadao reflects that “he had once tried to be grateful to her” when he fell sick with the flu and she kindly nursed him back to health—“but it was difficult, for she was no less repulsive to him in her kindness.” This reflection comes in the closing lines of the story, leaving readers with the unsettling and unsatisfying realization that Sadao hasn’t really changed. He thinks to himself that “Americans were full of prejudice and it had been bitter to live in it, knowing himself their superior.” Sadao meets racism with racism; although he’s given into the human impulse to help a fellow human by saving Tom (whose face, Sadao still thinks, is “white and repulsive”), his deep-rooted prejudices and nationalist sentiments are still intact.

The American Landlady Quotes in The Enemy

The The Enemy quotes below are all either spoken by The American Landlady or refer to The American Landlady. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Decisions and Duty Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the National Council of Education Research and Training edition of The Enemy published in 2015.
The Enemy Quotes

The Americans were full of prejudice and it had been bitter to live in it, knowing himself their superior. How he had despised the ignorant and dirty old woman who had at last consented to house him in her miserable home! He had once tried to be grateful to her because she had in his last year nursed him through influenza, but it was difficult, for she was no less repulsive to him in her kindness. Now he remembered the youthful, haggard face of his prisoner—white and repulsive.

“Strange,” he thought. “I wonder why I could not kill him?”

Related Characters: Dr. Sadao Hoki (speaker), Tom / The American, The American Landlady
Page Number: 46-47
Explanation and Analysis:
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The American Landlady Character Timeline in The Enemy

The timeline below shows where the character The American Landlady appears in The Enemy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Enemy
Humanization, Kindness, and Antagonism Theme Icon
Racism and Nationalism Theme Icon
Of course, there was also the “fat and slatternly landlady.” It had been a struggle for Sadao to find housing in America, and this “ignorant... (full context)