Lamb to the Slaughter
Story by Ronald Dahl
Was this piece worthy of the Dahl name?
Mary Maloney proves to be an interesting character in this story. She fits well with the dramatic irony, tone, symbolism, and the overall theme of the story because of the brilliant characterization done on her character. Dahl, at the beginning of the story, sets up the premise that the reader should solely empathize with her character. Continuously, he keeps building the pretense that she is a sweet, innocent lamb (which is a major motif); only capable of following the followers (previously mentioned under symbols). As the story progresses, the reader realizes that she is basically being slaughtered by her butcher of a husband. There are three parts to this slaughter. One is the emotional slaughter that her husband undertakes, which starts to slowly alter her character. The second part is the aftermath of the more physical part of the slaughter where Mary Maloney actually kills her husband with a leg of lamb. The results of this also ‘slaughter’ her ‘lamb-like’ character even more, and that is the third and final part of this massacre. Instead of being a naïve, innocent slave to her husband, she is now a malicious, demented (evident in the latter part of the story where she giggles due to the fact that she got away with murder), and a free woman; a woman with no slight implication that she was ever under her husband’s power. Dahl makes sure to use tone to describe just how much her husband controlled her, and how uplifted she was when he was gone. Using dramatic irony, he highlighted the one end of Maloney’s mental spectrum. Overall, Dahl compacted many literary elements in such a short story, yet he composed it into such a way that everything is delicately related upon each other. Without the tone, one wouldn’t get such a powerful impact from the irony. Mary’s characterization would have seemed less severe, and the idea of slaughter would be interpreted differently. Dahl uses this story to describe the extreme result of a common theme. Our main concern was to question if this was a worthy piece of literature that could convey a theme or a moral decision that could impact anyone. With the evidence previously mentioned, this piece was worthy of the Dahl name, and that the elements in this story hanged together in a delicate balance. Without one element, his message would not have been conveyed as strongly as it was.
Examples of Literary Elements
Characterization (Dynamic and Round Character):
Mary goes from slaving over her husband’s every move, to killing him! Expanding more on that, she goes from being a lamb, one who follows, to being the butcher, the one who rules. She finally takes control of her life, as if she has been resurrected from the depths of her despair, ironically, after her husband’s death. She goes from being weak to actually being in charge of her life and what she does. The point of a dynamic character is not to just change morally/physically, but to become more complex. Obviously, as this story continued, Mrs. Maloney is a prime example of a complex character. Her name (Mary Maloney), that she has a husband (Patrick Maloney- a police officer), how long she has been pregnant (six months), inferences on her home (rather comely, with a pleasant aura; classic feel of a late 20th century house), her status (housewife), and a description of her looks (translucent skin, large, dark, placid eyes), daily habits and personality (before and after her ‘realization’). *All occur during the exposition (paragraphs 1-33)
Symbolism: The club of lamb: The lamb in the story is the wife. She does everything for the husband. She gets his slippers, makes him dinner, and slaves over him. And to thank her for all her work, he gives her a divorce. Basically, the reader can obviously see she is the weakest one here. She has no say in it--he has his mind set. Her labors and...
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