The Benefits of Insanity
Mary Maloney, the poor, distraught housewife in Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter, is not guilty of her murderous actions by reason of temporary insanity, as at the time, she did not know what she was doing. Her lack of awareness of the situation going on around her is seen when she “stood very still through it all, watching him [her husband] with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from her” (2). Here, Mary is in shock as her beloved husband, the only light to her life, tells her that he is leaving her without any question. The kind of “dazed horror” she is experiencing is proof that Mary was not stable during this time period, which later allows her to become vulnerable enough to insanity. Also, by experiencing this “dazed horror,” it seems that she was not fully comprehending the situation, and therefore cannot be held accountable for her actions. In addition to that, Mary’s temporary insanity is again seen later when she thought to herself that “maybe, if she went about her business and acted as though she hadn’t been listening, then later, when she sort of woke up again, she might find that none of it had ever happen” (3). Here, it is discerned Mary is in complete disbelief of the situation, and isn’t even close to accepting what her husband is doing to her. In fact, she’s desperate enough to hope that it was a dream, and when she woke up, her world would be right again. However, in order for her to even hope for that to happen, she must be terribly distressed and hysterical, so much that she does not know what she was doing. All in all, because of her lack of understanding in the situation, Mary Maloney is not guilty of the murder of her husband by temporary insanity.
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