Suspense in this short story is created out of fear of others. Vladimir is so eccentric he is hard to understand. His emotions are unstable and some of his actions are unsociable. He is as likely to explode as he is to read poetry or play a piano composition by Bach. So when the story focuses on the unpredictable Vladimir, readers feel a sense of the unknown, which contributes to the suspense. The initially peripheral neighborhood murders also cause suspense. Two women are killed and their bodies mutilated. The reader wonders if Jody or Lillian will be next. The reader wonders who is the murderer. As the suspense builds, readers may suspect Vladimir is the criminal. He admits not liking women, and he is the most obviously irrational person in the story. So his visiting Lillian engenders concern for her safety. When Lillian opens the door, the brief relief that it is not Vladimir standing there is followed by the discovery that Jamie is the “rain man.” He shoves Lillian to the floor, and the third murder occurs.
Foreshadowing consists of details that hint at the outcome; other hints about the outcome can deliberately mislead a reader in order to extend the suspense. Vladimir warns Lillian about taking precautions to protect herself. But the unpredictable and explosive Vladimir appears not to be trusted; his anger is threatening. While Vladimir commands reader attention, however, Leffland points to the real murderer. That occurs in the scene in which Jamie uses a knife to spear and then squash two cockroaches. Lillian is disgusted by this act, but she does not consider its potential meaning, and at the last moment when she possibly could save her life, she opens the door to Jamie.
The anti-hero is a main character who has traits quite opposite to a conventional hero. The anti-hero is inept, clumsy, perhaps dishonest. He fails to solve the problem, is unable to master the situation. Though Vladimir is not the protagonist, he has some traits of the anti-hero. Vladimir tries to save Lillian (which is heroic in its intention) but he fails to do so. His short stature, his dress, demeanor, actions, all are contrary to what a stereotypical hero is. He is sloppy, crass, worrisome, and ineffectual. He tries to help Lillian, but he just makes her circumstances worse. He yells at Jody but is ignored. He tells Lillian all the wrong things: she is too shy; she is not a beauty; she looks like a prostitute when she puts on makeup. When she fails to comprehend him, he slaps her. He sits in his car, watching over Lillian with devotion. But on the night when he should have been there, he leaves just as the perpetrator arrives.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 24, Ella Leffland, Published by Gale Group, 2006