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Lamb to the Slaughter

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Nicole Lim

on 24 January 2014

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Transcript of Lamb to the Slaughter

Lamb to the Slaughter
The story, “Lamb to the Slaughter”, demonstrates that appearances can be deceiving, as shown through the actions of a pregnant woman who murders her husband and escapes punishment. The events of the story begin in the Maloney’s calm, tranquil household, where Mrs. Maloney awaits the return of her husband from work. However, when Mr. Maloney returns he acts unusually impartial to Mrs. Maloney’s kind, loving words. Written in the point of view of third person limited, we know that these actions from Mr. Maloney induced feelings of worry, uncertainty, fear, and anxiety in the protagonist, Mrs. Maloney. In the rising action, Mr. Maloney tells his wife he wants to leave her; frightening Mrs. Maloney. Evidently, the primary conflict (person vs. person) was that Mrs. Maloney did not want Mr. Maloney to leave her; mainly due to the fact that she was expecting a baby and needs his support. The mood abruptly becomes intense in the climax when Mrs. Maloney suddenly uses a leg of a lamb as a weapon to strike Mr. Maloney in the back of his head. Consequently, symbolism is shown in the title in which the lamb, being a feeble and innocent animal, represents the protagonist, Mrs. Maloney, who uses it (specifically the leg) “-to the Slaughter”. Thus, Mrs. Maloney solves the primary conflict by inflicting Mr. Maloney’s death in a moment of rage and madness. As a result of Mrs. Maloney solution, a secondary, internal conflict (person vs. self) is initiated, where she must decide what she’ll do to save her baby from the consequences of being a murderer. In the falling action, she settles the matter by deciding to cover her tracks by calling the police and telling them that the incident was the doings of an anonymous person, and by saying that she went out to buy groceries and wasn’t home to witness the crime. When the police arrived, they thoroughly investigated the house for clues on the murderer. After several hours, Mrs. Maloney fed the hungry police the leg of the lamb, subsequently abolishing the weapon so that they would never discern her as the culprit. Mrs. Maloney was underestimated because nobody would have imagined for her to have ever acted at such a violent degree. In conclusion, one may seem pathetically weak by appearance, but have the potential to overpower others and prove themselves to be stronger (intellectually and physically).
Symbolism
Police- fights for the well-being of others, justice, protection, security, integrity
Leg of lamb- weapon, used for more reasons than one, evidence, holds all of the “answers” needed to solve the crime, invisible obviousness
Whiskey- used to clear the mind, refreshment, calming, soothing, comfort
Chairs- normality, familiarity, regularity, represents an everyday routine
Detective- investigation, mystery, question, uncertainty, inquiry
House- normality, protection, warmth, safety, fortification, family, love
Slaughter- violence, murder, death, darkness, danger
Lamb- weak, fragile, follower, innocent, unimportant, underestimated, overlooked
Crime- Truth is unknown, mysterious, dangerous, unsafe, anyone can be the culprit

Symbol Representing the Protagonist
Lamb- A fragile, weak, animal, usually known to follow other animals with more power, and are not expected to be capable of doing many things. In the title, the lamb is a representation of Mrs. Maloney, who just like a lamb, is overlooked as a worthless being, however “-to the Slaughter” is to indicate that although she is a harmful, scrawny looking woman, her heart was violent enough to murder her own husband.
Symbol Representing Theme
Crime- When a crime takes place, the culprit is always unknown, and the person who performed the crime could be the one you would least expect. This relates to the theme because Mary Maloney’s degree of fury was disregarded, and it was unexpected that she would kill her husband. This incident leads to a series of questions, concerns, interrogations, and mystery, which is why you should never underestimate the fury of one who is scorned.
By: Roald Dahl
Summary
A relevant allusion is Jeremiah and Isaiah from “The Holy Bible”. The phrase “Lamb to the Slaughter” refers to someone who goes innocently and unconcernedly into a dangerous or life threatening situation. The metaphorical use of the statement is still valid and in fact there are two cases of people who go into a situation like lambs to the slaughter. The first of the two, would be the murder victim (Patrick Maloney), while knowing that he is going to something uncomfortable, he has no idea what the outcome will be. The second would be Mary Maloney herself. It is the shock, because she doesn’t know what is coming, and that shock is what drives over the edge to murder her husband.
Characters/Characterization:
Protagonist: the protagonist is Mary Maloney, because the events in the story revolve around her.
Antagonist: the antagonist is Patrick Maloney, the protagonist’s husband, because he poses the main problem for the protagonist, and drives her to murder.
Grocer: innocent, kind, friendly to the protagonist but not very involved in the main events/conflicts of the story.
Police officers/detective: represent society, Mary Maloney outsmarts them however because they completely overlook her as a suspect for the murder of Patrick Maloney.

Character Traits:
Protagonist:
1. Impulsive- she killed her husband as a first reaction to his news, without giving much thought to her actions.
2. Nurturing- while we see a less-than-pleasant side of Mary Maloney throughout most of the story, during the rising action you can see that she takes good care of her husband (e.g., serving him food and drink, asking about his day…)
3. Clever- Mary Maloney was clever in convincing the police to eat the lamb leg she had used to kill her husband, thus wiping away all evidence of her crime, and using the very people investigating the crime to do so.
Values: caring for others, protecting herself and her baby.
Antagonist:
1. Self-serving- when Patrick told his wife he was planning to leave her, he spoke in a manner that gave off an air of insensitivity, therefore making it seem as though he only cared about himself.
2. Unaware- it seemed he was unaware of the wrath he might face from his wife, and severely underestimated what her reaction to his words might be, which resulted in her murdering him.
3. Insensitive- he was too forward in the way he conveyed his decision to leave his wife to her, resulting in her overwhelming and consuming feelings.
Values: doing his work as a detective, independence/caring for himself.


Setting:
Unknown locale, in the Maloneys’ house and at the grocer’s, over the course of an evening
Mood/atmosphere:
Mysterious, tragic, suspenseful, frightening
Point of view:
Third person limited omniscient- there is an outside narrator referring to the characters as ‘he’ or ‘she’ however the readers only know the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist.

Plot Graph
Quote Analysis (quote supporting theme)

“…Mary Maloney simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb…and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his (Patrick’s) head.”

The quote is made by the narrator to the audience, at the climax of the story, as a recount of an unexpected event that arose from the immense anger of the protagonist. After Mr. Maloney broke ties with Mrs. Maloney by saying, “Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out”, he demonstrated that he doesn’t want to have this relationship; despite Mrs. Maloney’s indifferent feelings. Mrs. Maloney, in a moment of realization, rage, and madness, decides to kill him for fear of him abandoning her. This was a startling new course of action from the sweet, calm, innocent wife, who undoubtedly loved her husband. It’s significant simply because it relates to the theme of ‘appearance can be deceiving’. Symbolically, using a lamb as a weapon also signifies the use of a feeble and innocent animal for the horrid purpose of killing lives.


Quote Analysis (quote that reveals significant character trait(s) of the main character):

“Please,” she [Mrs. Maloney] begged. “Please eat it…It’d be a favour to me if you’d eat it up”

The quote is made by Mrs. Maloney, followed by the officers eating the one and only evidence. During this moment in time, the officers had been in the midst of searching for the murder weapon used to kill Mr. Maloney. Since Mrs. Maloney was the one to kill Mr. Maloney with a lamb leg, she knew the best way to dispose of the weapon and clear her name for good was to get the officers to eat it. As shown in the quote, Mrs. Maloney was begging the officers to eat it all; portraying it as a favour they could do for her to persuade them. It is significant in revealing Mrs. Maloney’s intelligence and her deceitful nature to solve external, person vs. person conflicts, or to escape punishment.


Quote Analysis (quote supporting theme)
Quote Analysis (quote that reveals significant character trait(s) of the main character):
Caption:

The lamb- innocent-looking yet deadly

Mary Maloney was innocent looking like a lamb, but was deadly because she killed her husband. Also, she used a lamb leg to commit the crime.
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