Lamb to The Slaughter
The Use of Suspense and Plot in Lamb to the Slaughter, a Story by Roald Dahl
How will Mary get away with murder? The author Roald Dahl uses a few literary elements to make this murder successful in his story. Suspense, and Plot. In the story Mary Maloney waits for her husband, Patrick Maloney, to come from work. Though, when Patrick comes home after work, something seems off. Patrick tells Mary that he wants a divorce. Mary is shocked and tells him that he can’t leave. But Patrick does not change his mind. Mary goes into the basement to grab a leg of lamb to cook for him anyways. When Mary gets back into the living room, she sees Patrick. Inadvertently, she hits him on the head and kills him with the leg of lamb. She calls the police and acts like someone else murdered him. The police were looking for the murder weapon while Mary was cooking the leg of lamb. By the end of the day, Mary ends up feeding the leg of lamb to the police.
The first literary element that Roald Dahl uses to make a successful short story is suspense. The use of suspense can be seen after Mary kills Patrick with the leg of lamb. Readers will then ask how Mary will get away with the murder and how she will hide the murder weapon. In this part of the story it is hard to predict what will happen next. The use of suspense will make the audience stay on their toes and get goosebumps.
The second literary element that Roald Dahl uses is a plot. The use of the plot keeps the story interesting. After Mary had killed her husband, she stuck the leg in the oven to cook it. When the detectives arrived at the house after Mary had called them the leg of lamb was still being cooked. Mary planned all of this after she had killed Patrick. Then she confuses the detectives by cooking the lamb and feeding it to them. The detectives don’t realize that the murder weapon is right under their noses. Mary is now getting away with killing Patrick, and she knows it. Mary has changed throughout the story. She used to be a quiet wife that doesn’t seem to be capable of murder. Now she is a wife capable of killing and getting away with it and tricking the police into eating the murder weapon.
Roald Dahl used two literary elements to make this short story successful. First is suspense to keep the audience on their toes. The second literary element that Roald Dahl used is a plot. The plot is used to plan out the short story which will intrigue readers.
The Irony Throughout the Story in Lamb to the Slaughter, a Short Story by Roald Dahl
Irony in “Lamb to the Slaughter”
In the short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl, irony is shown blatantly throughout the story, and most don’t even notice it. For example, when her husband comes home from work every day, Mary Maloney is a very kind and loving wife. She kisses him as he walks through the door, she takes his coat, and even makes him a drink when he sits in his chair. However, after being told about a proposed break-up, she grabs a frozen leg of lamb and “walks up behind her husband and without any pause she swings the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brings it down as hard as she can on the back of his head.” (3) This shows an example of situational irony, as it has to do with an event happening that is the opposite of what is expected. The audience would typically think that, after an experience like that, would just cry or ask for the reason behind the break-up. Obviously, that is not what happens, as we find out that she murders her husband. After she calls the police about her husband’s death, Mary is being very clever, and acts as if she has no idea of what killed her husband.
Later, Mrs. Maloney even “begs the police to eat the leg of lamb saying, ‘It’d be a favor to me if you’d eat it up.’” (2) This shows an example of dramatic irony, as the audience knows that the lamb was murder weapon, but the characters don’t. The policemen think that she wants them to eat it because nobody else will eat it, but she really just wants them to eat it so that they will never be able to find the murder weapon. These are just two examples of irony that are easily found in the story, but there are many more that are not hard to find.
Literary Analysis Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter
Roald Dahl is a very famous British author, who had written many novels as well as short stories. One of such short stories is the darkly humorous story, “Lamb to the Slaughter.” This story talks about a woman in an almost oppressive marriage, who then, after hearing that her husband is planning to leave her, manages to successfully murder him, leaving no incriminating evidence for the police to find. “Lamb to the Slaughter” through the use of expected gender roles and their reversal portrays a successful escape of a woman from her oppressive marriage and the role that society had given her.
The beginning of the story sets the scene, showing how Mary Maloney and her husband fit their marital roles. The story starts with the pregnant Mary Maloney waiting for her husband to return home. She has embraced the role of a dutiful and loving wife wholeheartedly, seemingly feeling satisfied with fulfilling the duties that are expected of her. When her husband arrives from work, they act in the typical fashion of what is expected from a couple in this time period – the wife tries to do everything to make the husband happy, offering to help him and doing every little thing that she thinks might satisfy him. She is even completely content in this role, saying “She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel — almost as a sunbather feels the sun — that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together”. He, on the other hand, does not treat her with respect and acts entitled to her attention, which is again what was almost the norm in those types of relationships. The characters falling into their expected roles so easily is used as a contrast to the later part of the story, and with how normal and expected it seems, it puts focus on the sudden twist that happens.
The role reversal that shows Mary Maloney’s triumph starts after she finds out that her husband is planning to leave her. She goes to prepare dinner, but then suddenly, and unexpectedly, murders her husband with a frozen leg of a lamb. In that moment, Patrick Maloney goes from the dominant role of a successful man but uncaring husband to the role of the victim, and Mary Maloney goes from being a submissive wife to becoming a killer. However, instead of panicking, Mary Maloney embraces this role reversal. After the police arrive and after Mary manages to successfully hide the evidence, the way the policeman treat Mary can be compared to the beginning of the story. They do treat her with a bit of condescension, but still, they are the ones who are offering her drinks and trying to help and satisfy her. In this relationship, she is the one in control, which contrasts with how her husband was the one in control of their relationship in the beginning of the story. The way these interpersonal relationships are shown, between Mary Maloney and her husband, and Mary Maloney and the other policemen highlight the fact that Mary has manages to successfully escape the predetermined role that society has given her.
“Lamb to the Slaughter” is a short story written by Roald Dahl, that presents a typical relationship of a husband and a wife, which then goes sour when the husband decides to leave, and the wife murders him in retaliation. It shows the wife first in her typical submissive role, and then, after the murder, in the role of someone in control, showing how she successfully, albeit through murder, managed to escape her given role.
Symbol of the Lamb in Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl
In Lamb to the slaughter written by Roald Dahl in 1953, the symbol lamb means meek, innocent and pure also Victory of life and death. Both Mary and her husband Patrick take on the roles of figurative lambs as they the roles of figurative lambs as they sacrifice one another. While Patrick sacrifices Mary’s role as his wife by leaving the marriage, Mary sacrifices Patrick’s life, killing him with a frozen leg of lamb.
The wife gives the meekness, innocence and timidness of the lamb and timidity of the lamb a superb portrayal of that. For instance Once Marys husband, Patrick came home she wanted to make sure everything was perfect and comfortable. Mary Maloney was at Patricks every beck and call, even after her husband told her some seemingly terrible news, she continued on being a gentle and caring wife by trying to make dinner for him as if nothing is wrong. Or perhaps happened. Another way Mary has represented a lamb is Victory of Life, this conveys that the wife, Mary Avoided death. How she avoided the death penalty, how she did this was she convinced the detectives to eat the lamb, which is also the murder weapon. So by the detectives eating the murder weapon (lamb), They ate the evidence so now there is no murder weapon to be found so that is how she “Won Life”.
As for the husband Patrick represents a figurative lamb, as the lamb also means death, And unexpectancy. In the story the husband broke some heartbreaking news to his wife, Mary. In the story he has stated that he would want a divorce even though she is heavily pregnant with his child, he also asked if they can make this not a big deal because he doesn’t want it to be this big thing at work. In the story, the lamb to the slaughter the husband also stood up about to walk out as he was quite mad that she was acting as if nothing was happening and turned around not facing her that is when the unexpectancy comes into play. The unexpectancy of the story is that the wife comes up the stairs with a lamb, the wife hits the husband behind the head with the lamb killing him. Obviously the husband wasn’t expecting anything like that and that is also how he represents the other part of the Lamb death and this transitions into how the husband, Patrick, also represents the semblance Of death part of the Lamb which is pretty explainable by itself.
In the end both Mary and Patrick Maloney has represented the lamb. Mary seems to have represented the lamb more than Patrick has. To reiterate Mary has represented the timidness or timidity, the frail, the innocence and meekness. And we can’t forget how she also represented the victory Of Life on getting away with her act of crime. Patrick Maloney represented the unexpectancy and death of the Lamb. Thus showing that Patrick and Mary Maloney are one in the same when showing the symbolical link between the lamb and Mary and Patrick.
Depiction Of Women In Lamb To The Slaughter By Roald Dahl And A Jury By Her Peers By Susan Glaspell
Since the beginning of time, there have been vast differences in the roles that men and women play in society. The way society treats women is mostly determined by the attitudes of men living in the society. This presents itself in the short stories A Jury by Her Peers by Susan Glaspell and Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl. These two stories show different women who have been suspected of murdering their husbands, to which they are both guilty of committing. Despite this, there are more factors to consider in order to understand the situations that could have led them to kill their husbands and the events that follow. While examining the protagonists of the stories, Mrs. Wright/Minnie Wright and Mrs. Mary Maloney, the authors show how these women use their overlooked intelligence to outsmart the men and to show unity among women in a male dominated society.
Dahl’s story introduces an excited and anxious pregnant wife, Mrs. Maloney who is waiting for her husband’s return from work. She later finds him in speechless mood which was unusual of him and upon inquiry, the husbands informs her that he does not wish to remain married to her and that she should not argue with him (Dahl*). In blind rage from the news, Mary strikes him on the head with a frozen leg of lamb from the freezer which kills the husband. She covers up her atrocious act by framing it as a robbery. She later goes on her creating her alibi before informing the police of the “tragic accident” which had happened. Efforts to search for the murder weapon are fruitless inside the house, and they stop suspecting her “acted quite normal…very cheerful…wanted to give him a good supper…peas…cheesecake…impossible that she”. After the search, Mary offers them some whiskey and the leg of lamb that was cooking in the oven and as they eat the murder weapon, Mary giggles in the other room having outwitted the police.
Similarly, the story by Glaspell tells a story of a woman who has been imprisoned because of the murder of her difficult husband “I don’t think a place would be any cheerfuller for John Wright being’ in it”. Before her conviction, the town’s sheriff needs a motive as to why the crime was committed. The sheriff, Peter, his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Hale soon descend upon the Wright’s farm for further clues. The men examine the rooms upstairs while the women go through the kitchen where they come upon a wooden box with a dead bird inside. The two women come to the conclusion that Mr. Wright had killed the bird “a thing that sang. She used to sing. Pie killed that too”. Despite one of the women being married to the sheriff, the two conceal evidence which would have been used to try Mrs. Wright.
Both authors user characterization in their stories to display how men in the story have the upper hand over the women because of their superiority in the social structure. Mr. Wright, as described in Glaspell’s book, was the model husband as he did not smoke or drink and wanted to live quietly “folks talked too much anyway, and all he asked was peace and quiet”. But he was a hard man who oppressed his wife Minnie which is seen when he refuses to get her a telephone and by killing her canary. Mr. Hale in the story is quick to dismiss that there are more to the case against Minnie telling both Mrs. Peter and Hale that women are used to worrying over “trifles” which further diminishes the roles played by women in the society.
In Dahl’s short story, Mr. Maloney, also a police officer, does not acknowledge the lengths that his wife goes to give him the attention. He oppresses his wife by making it seem like it was okay for him to leave her despite her being pregnant with his child “of course I’ll give you money…need not really be any fuss. It wouldn’t be very good for my job.” Mary fulfills the roles set by the society of being a good servant and caregiver to her husband, but the imbalance of power between the two manifests itself with the way he has treated her. At the end of the story, she is able to dupe the policemen who assume that the murderer was a man “it’s the old story, get the weapon, and you’ve got the man”.
In conclusion, gender roles and responsibilities of women were defined by men living in a society where women had could not publicly voice their opinions and thoughts. The stories by Dahl and Glaspell show this disparity between the gender and steps taken by the women to rise above the male-dominated society. Traditional roles of women in marriage have shifted where the women duties are delegated to domestic life. These stories collectively show the conflicts in gender and how women come out being superior to the men based on the choices they make.
The Three Versions of Lamb to the Slaughter
Within the three adaptations of Lamb to the Slaughter, they all have small differences from each other that make each story interesting in its own way. In the text, Lamb to the Slaughter (the original) Mary is first portrayed as a sweet innocent lady who loves her husband. But she then is later seen as kind of sneaky and maybe even scary. Patrick is portrayed as a busy person and seems like he has lots of authority.
Compared to the original, the Alfred Hitchcock version offers a Mary that is first seen as very caring and is more all over her husband. And in the end, she is more creepy. I think that the writer this so that the viewer understands why she might be so upset that he is leaving her. The Hitchcock version also shows Patrick as more a rude person and a bit more forward compared to the original. I think the writer did this so that the viewer could possibly sympathize Mary with the whole situation. In the Hitchcock version compared to the original, the writer decided to have Mary refuse to let her husband leave her. I think the writer did this to help viewers see how angry she was and to see what her motive for hitting him was.
Another difference was that the writer did was that he added the fact that Mary staged the murder scene to make it look like Patrick had gotten into a fight. I think they decided to do this because it let the viewer see the knowledge that Mary had about the situation and also show how smart she is. The last thing that was added was the fact that the detectives pointed out how surprising it was that the leg of lamb didn’t burn in the oven because of its size and how the looked at it and complimented it. I think the writer did this to add some humor and irony to the story to make it more enjoyable.
Also compared to the original the 1979 version also had some differences. In the 1979 version, Mary at first seemed a bit clueless and seems like she cares for her husband A LOT. The writer probably did this because they wanted to have a reason for Mary to be so angry about his decision to leave her. And in this version, Patrick is shown as more mean and masculine. The first difference I noticed is that they change the order of a story. I think the writer did this to make the viewer more engaged with the story and make sure they paid attention. Something the writer also added was the fact that her husband had been cheating on her. I think the writer did this to help the viewers create a motive for Mary. Last, something they also changed was how dramatic Mary was when Patrick said he was going out. I think the writer did the video to make it more enjoyable and eye-catching.
Seeking for Change in Fahrenheit 451 and a Lamb to the Slaughter
Society consists of rules and standards in which not all individuals are joyful about. This can lead individuals into seeking change. This was portrayed by Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451, and Mary Maloney in A Lamb to the Slaughter.
To begin with, Guy Montag is a key example of change. Books are shown to be terrible to humanity as the government wants to keep everyone complacent. This is all related to the government’s plan as his goal is to tell people what to think, instead of allowing them to think on their own. Montag, who notices this states, ‘There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine'(Bradbury). Montag realizes that there must be something the government is trying to hide from them, and that is found within books. Since he is a fireman who is told to burn books, he denies this, and instead starts to collect them.
He is disobeying orders as he is seeking change. He embarks on a journey to find others who are also against this theory, and teams up with them to bring the government down. When the government discovers books in Montag’s house, he tries to arrest him. Montag decides to burn the government with his flame thrower. This act was committed out of anger since the government was not permitting freedom to the people, which resulted in society going against his orders. This develops the character of Montag as he was on the government’s side at the beginning of the story, but ended up going against him once he realized how wicked he really is.
A Lamb to the Slaughter
Additionally, Mary Maloney also seeks change. She started off as a caring, and genuine person at the start of the novel. She loved her husband immensely, and would always treat him as a king. Conversely, he would treat her terribly, and she would still reply back in a sweet tone. When he stated, ‘This is going to be a bit of a shock to you'(Dahl), this is when everything started to go downhill. He wanted to divorce his wife, even after all the kind, and generous actions she would do for him. This left Mary heartbroken, and enraged herself with anger. She whacked her husband with a lamb of leg to the back of his head.
This resulted in his death. She was exhausted from how impertinent her husband was, and decided to get back at him by ending his life. All Mary ever wanted was affection from her husband. Since she did not receive the love and attention she desired, this impacted her choices. She transitioned from a kindhearted person, to a psychotic maniac. If her husband was to display fondness towards her, she would not have developed into the crazy person she is. She giggled about this homicide at the end, which further shows how deranged she is.
To sum it up, a desire for change can lead a person to go through drastic measures. This was strictly shown through Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451, and Mary Maloney in A Lamb to the Slaughter. Change is key to growth of an individual.
Stylistic Devices in the Short Story Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl
Similes are quite often used within the short story, “Lamb to the Slaughter”. An example of this can be identified in the title, which can also be interpreted as: “Like a lamb to the slaughter” the lamb in the story is used as a symbol of innocence, which unconsciously represents Mary Malone in the initial part of the story, even though then her innocence as a “lamb” gets “slaughtered” by her husband. Secondly simile used by the writer is: “She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this mankind to feel- almost as a sunbather feels the sun.” This simile demonstrates her initial caring and devoted feelings towards Patrick, until he doesn’t deceive her with his decision. This overcomes her innocence and leads her to kill him. This technique used by Road Dahl has a great impact on the reader because it gives to the story a symbolic meaning that creates a much more deeper and significant representation of the character’s personality. The decision of the author of using this literature device is interesting and at the same time clear because it demonstrates the total evolution of the main character throughout her actions.
In the story the author uses irony as a literature device. This can be seen in the quote: “”It’d be a favor to me if you’d eat it up. Then you can go on with your work afterwards.” From this quote we can understand how the reader knows that the weapon of the murder is the leg of the lamb, but the detectives don’t, while they are eating it. This creates a pause within the story and within the reader because it makes the reader reflect a lot on wether the police at this point will understand that Mary is the killer of her husband or not. Irony is a major device used by Roald Dahl even when Patrick says to Mary: “Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out.” Mary here already knows her intentions and at the same time Patrick isn’t aware that she is going to kill him without giving him the possibility to go out. This moment of the story leaves the reader to wonder wether or not she will make this terrible action. The use of irony within the story has a great impact on the reader by creating strong emotions which give the opportunity to the reader to know what Patrick’s character awaits and on the other hand understand Mary’s intentions.
The author builds up suspense within the story, by using foreshadowing. This literature device is used to give the reader a hint of the increasing tension between Mary and Patrick, this is shown when he says: “‘This is going to be a bit of a shock to you, I’m afraid.” The writer has chosen this technique because he wants to create an uncomfortable situation between the two characters and make it detect to the reader. This leads the reader to think that something negative is going to occur within their relationship, making curiosity increase within the reader’s mind. The descriptions of Mary’s character are build up step after step to make the reader suspect Mary’s change. This creates anticipation within the story using effective writing. The uncertainty created within the reader on Mary’s real intentions is a technique used by the author to create suspense throughout foreshadowing. The use of foreshadowing as a device is effective within Roald Dahl’s short story because it creates dramatic tension within the trend of the story and conveys little information at a time to help the reader understand what could come next.
In my opinion an important device used within the story, is imagery. We can understand this throughout the descriptive language that the author uses to create visual imagery to describe Mary’s Maloney character:”Her skin for this was her sixth month with child had acquired a wonderful translucent quality, the mouth was soft, and the eyes, with their new placid look, seemed larger darker than before.” This quote implies Mary Maloney as an innocent, sweet and caring wife, by helping the reader visualise better the type of person Mary Maloney is. The same technique is used to make the reader visualise better the atmosphere created within the story:”The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight- hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.” This device is used to create mystery within the reader’s mind, without making the turning point of the story explicit. Throughout the story, imagery has a great impact because it explores within the mind of the reader by transmitting different emotions that give an overall understanding of the circumstances within the story.
Peculiarities of Human Nature in Lamb to the Slaughter Novel
Human nature is a mystery in today’s modern world. One may understand the difference between right and wrong but their actions are sometimes unpredictable. Roald Dahl’s short story, Lamb to the Slaughter, illustrates the transformation of one’s morals and sanity when faced with certain circumstances. This is evident through the use of characterization of the protagonist, Mary Maloney, who drastically undergoes a significant change. Equally important are the types of irony which impart a unique perspective in the transpiring events to the reader. Beyond that, the symbolism of the title and various objects reflect the main message of the story. Although some may think one’s values restrict their choices, Roald Dahl proves that one’s morality does not define the decisions may arrive at.
Initially, Patrick’s declaration that he wants a divorce results in his murder, by his wife. While one can say this proves that Mrs. Maloney does not love her husband, the author emphasizes her adoration for him using characterization in the opening passages. One paragraph in particular illustrates Mary’s attachment to her husband after he returns home, “For her this was always a blissful time of day…. She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man….especially the way he remained silent about his tiredness, sitting still with him until the whiskey had taken some of it away” (Dahl, 1). Additionally, when Mary commits murder it is apparent that she is not thinking clearly. In other words, “everything was automatic” (Dahl 2). Beyond that, she is willing to suffer the death penalty that is until she remembers she is with child. Nevertheless, seeing her husband dead on the floor after she returns from the grocer causes her to “cry her heart out…. No acting necessary” (Dahl 4). To summarize, the shock of her husband’s betrayal sends her into a state contrary to who she is. However the love for her child allows her to carry on.
Similarly, the irony throughout the story indicates that Mrs. Maloney’s actions are unforeseeable. Specifically, situational and dramatic irony are present so that the plot develops. The characterization of Mrs. Maloney creates shock and surprise when she murders her husband; as it contradicts the character that the author establishes. Mary’s, surprise even her, “the violence of the crash, the noise, the small table overturning” (Dahl 3) brings her out of her astonishment. Equally important is the dramatic irony which illustrates the transition of Mary’s character from loving housewife to a cunning criminal. Her change is so drastic that the detectives do not even remotely suspect her. The irony allows the reader to understand that Mrs. Maloney’s actions do not reflect the character the author creates and therefore are unpredictable.
The author frequently justifies Mary’s actions to protect her innocent image and ethical morals. Although Mrs. Maloney is easily comparable to a modern day murderer, her actions are continuously justifiable in the attempt to portray her as the victim. Namely her husband’s choice to leave her while she is pregnant lessens the extent of the reader’s judgement of Mary’s actions. This portrays Patrick as the enemy rather than the victim that he is. The author uses a third person limited omniscient point of view so that the reader only witnesses Marie’s side of the story and identifies with her pain and sadness. The two detectives also only identify with Mary by questioning her and doing their job while “always treating her kindly” (Dahl 4). They are “exceptionally nice to her” (Dahl 5) because they already view her as the victim. Above all, the title reflects Mary’s role in the story as an innocent lamb that faces slaughter and the end of the life she knew. However, her actions betray her innocence as she does whatever she can to preserve a life for her and her unborn child.
Mrs. Maloney has a sincere affection for her husband, for that reason she devotes many hours of her day to him. However, am unfortunate event reveals a contrary to her nature. Her reaction causes her character to alternate between loving and sinister. Yet, the author persistently portrays Mary as faultless to protect her innocent image even though she strays away from it. Fundamentally, there are no limits one’s actions- whether positive or negative. Regardless of one’s morality, their behaviour can be contrary to what was once thought about a person. Mrs. Maloney’s murder her husband is not violent retaliation but instead her way of taking control of her life by not letting the man she loves cause it to crashing down. Though one should not model Mary’s actions, her experiences teach the lesson to not take life at face value. Rather it is essential to create a life path for one’s self, even if it defies one’s own values.
An Issue of Insanity in Lamb to the Slaughter and Tell-tale Heart
What is insanity? Stephen King a renowned writer of horror books said in his short story Why we Crave Horror Movies “I think that we’re all mentally ill; those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better – and maybe not all that much better, after all.” Madness or mental illness is a prominent theme in both Lamb to the Slaughter a short story by Roald Dahl and in Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. The insanity leads to murders in both short stories, and unjustified murders at that. Both protagonists commit murders as a result of their madness. Mary kills her husband in the heat of the moment after her husband notifies her he is leaving her, pregnant and jobless. The protagonist in Tell-Tale Heart kills his neighbour, an old man with an eye that the protagonist finds most unpleasant and made his blood run cold every time he looks at it. Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart and Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter reveal the state of mind of the character
Mary from Lamb to the Slaughter and the (nameless) narrator from Tell-Tal Heart both have a mental illness that allows them to justify murder. Mary is a manipulative sociopath who feels no remorse after murdering her husband. She has no difficulty lying to police to establish her innocence and in fact lies very convincingly, typical of a sociopath. The narrator at the beginning of the story acknowledges he has a “disease” which makes his senses, especially his hearing, very sensitive and to prove he isn’t insane the narrator tells this story. This disease the narrator has is paranoid schizophrenic which is as excessive concern about one’s own well-being like the narrator and the “evil” eye, also people with paranoia tend to believe that they have super sensitive hearing. They hear inanimate object taking to them or voices that don’t exist, that would be the beating heart of the old man buried underneath the floorboards. Than the narrator had the arrogant enough to go and bring the officers and sit right over top of the floorboards where he hid him. Similarly in Lamb to the Slaughter Mary was so overconfident in her lie and manipulations that she fed the officers, who were investigating her husband’s murder, the murder weapon, the leg of lamb. Her rash decision could have led to her arrest however, I think the narrator from Tell-Tale Heart couldn’t stand the guilt and confessed to the murder. Both Mary and the narrator from Tell-Tale Heart are crazy, this insanity prompts both characters to murder in cold blood.
Both characters commit murders in cold blood however; a major plot difference in both stories is guilt, and their response to the murders. Mary feels no guilt, no remorse for the atrocious crime she just perpetrated; Mary doesn’t even shed a tear for the father of her child. Instead of feeling guilt Mary acts more like a hardened criminal not like the housewife and begins right after the murder to fabricating her alibi. Mary begins to practice what she is to say to the grocer at the store practising “ ‘Hullo Sam’, she said brightly, aloud. The voice sounded peculiar too. ‘I want some potatoes please, Sam. Yes, and I think a can of peas.’ ” Mary was more consumed in creating her alibi than mourning her husband’s death. Unlike Mary the protagonist in Tell-Tale Heart feels guilt for what he has done, so much so that he begins to imagine he can still hear the old man’s heart still beating, reminding him of the murder he committed. His conscience is creating the heartbeat in his head because he feels guilty for the murdering the old man. The old man cries out “Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! — here, here! — it is the beating of his hideous heart!” The old man could not stand to have the murder on his conscience and the guilt overcame him and he confessed to the murder of the old man. The narrator’s motive to kill the old man is because of his “evil” eye the old man described it as such, “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.” The narrator feared the eye and his paranoia led him to believe the eye was evil and he must eliminate it by killing the old man. Actually the narrator did not hate the old man; rather he had this to say about the old man whom he butchered “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye!” The old man’s motives for murder were not based on self-defense but just because he didn’t like how his eye looked. On the other hand, Mary’s murder was a crime of passion, in the “heat of the moment” she lashed out and struck her husband with the leg of lamb but not with the intention to kill Mary says “At that point, Mary Maloney simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his head.” Mary had no idea she would kill him actually she was quite surprised she goes on to say “All right, she told herself. So I’ve killed him.” Mary’s motives were not to murder, rather it is just a response to her husband’s choice to divorce her; it was not pre-meditated. In both stories the character’s motives lead to guilt because Mary’s attack was in the moment but the old man’s murder was premeditated which therefore produced his guilty conscience.
Guilt is common in both short stories as is the use of symbols. Both authors use symbols in their writing to add deeper meaning to the topic and support the theme of the story. In Lamb to the Slaughter Margret Atwood uses the clock and time to indicate time and contributes to the depth and the changes that undergo in the story. There is a difference of time before and after the murder. Before the murder time was pleasant and tranquil she says “Now and again she would glance up a the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time (her husband) would come. For her this was a blissful time of day. When the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen, and a few moments later, punctually as always, she heard the tires on the gravel outside” Than after she murdered her husband time changed its meaning and everything started happening quickly she says “It was extraordinary, now, how quick her mind became clear. It was as if time stood still. She began thinking very fast.” Mary is so preoccupied with time, patiently knitting waiting for her husband to come home it doesn’t take her very long to forget him and move on. For a woman so cognisant about time should recognise the critical time of gestation and during the twenty minutes her husband was home she drank a glass of whisky. Similarly in Tell-Tale Heart time also plays a significant role in the theme. In the narrator’s madness he is so amalgamated with time he says “A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine.” The narrator in his madness perceives himself as a clock keeping the time, time left for the old man is in his hands. The narrator compares the ticking of a clock to a heartbeat when he says “I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.” The narrator compares a heart to a clock; some even call our heart an eternal clock when it stops ticking the person dies. This leads me into another symbol the old man’s eye. It is referred to as evil and it looks like a vulture’s eye. Vultures are scavenger birds that prey on the dead, this may be because he has not died yet of his old age while he watches others die around him. The narrator also believes the eye has special powers he says “I replaced the boards so cleverly, that no eye not even (the old man’s) could have detected anything wrong.” Suggesting that the old man’s eye had special powers, such as the phrase “the eyes are the window to the soul.” Perhaps that is what the narrator has to fear, maybe believing the old man’s evil eye will steal his very soul. Similarly in Lamb to the Slaughter the lamb is a symbol of her meek status in the relationship it is also a biblical allusion to the Lamb of God. Lambs are weak animals and require the shepherd to protect it and guide it. In this story she is the lamb, and her working husband is the shepherd, taking care of her. Than when she slaughters her husband she breaks the chain and frees herself from the metaphorical shepherd. Mary does everything for her husband. She makes his dinner. She mixes his drinks. She cleans his house. She devotes herself to that man so much and what does she get in return? A divorce! So she fights back and kills him. Than in a very good use of dramatic irony the officers eat the murder weapon they have fruitlessly searched for. As the murder weapon is destroyed so is Mary being the weak lamb in this relationship. LAMB OF GOD?
In both of these stories point of view plays important roles in both novels. In Lamb to the Slaughter the story is portrayed in third person limited this is significant because the plot follows Mary and her thoughts but the other characters are presented externally, thus giving insight into only Mary’s thoughts and internal emotions. The author chose this point of view to present the crazy wife and what happens in the mind of a sociopath. Likewise in Tell-Tale heart the story is told in first person so the one character is telling the story of what’s happening. This point of view is significant because it gives the reader the biases and opinions of the narrator. In this case the bias is madness and the reader is given insights into the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic who tries to justify murdering his neighbour because of his eye. In the same way the reader is given knowledge of a woman who would kill her husband than feed the murder weapon to the police and giggle like a school-girl at their ironic statement “I bet the murder weapon is right under our noses.” The reader learns about the mind of a sociopath and how they can lie and manipulate others with ease. In both short stories the reader learns about the apparent madness of both characters and their thoughts and rationalizations about murder.