Mary Maloney is a complex character. Explore the way in which Dahl introduces and develops her.
The story is called ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, which is part of a collection of short stories called ‘The Tales of the Unexpected’, written by Roald Dahl. These stories are grotesque and show the perverse nature of human beings. These stories all have a twist which is unexpected hence the name ‘Tales of the Unexpected’.
The story begins with a tranquil atmosphere creating a very domestic scene. Mrs Maloney is a stereotypical housewife as she is: “waiting for her husband to come in from work”. Also, she is “sewing”. This is her favourite time of the day as it described as being “blissfull”. This shows she is very normal and is a good role model of a house-wife. This gets the reader thinking she is very typical and couldn’t do anything serious. Dahl is trying to fool the reader so that they get shocked when they find out she kills her husband. Mrs Maloney is very feminine. Her skin “acquired a wonderful translucent quality” and her “mouth was soft” and her eyes looked even larger and darker “with their new placid look”. This quotation shows that Mrs Maloney shows no signs of becoming a murderer. Especially not, when it was her “sixth month with child”.
Mrs Maloney idolises her husband. She has a very unhealthy addiction for him. She is very dependent and subservient on him. “She loved to luxuriate in front of this man, and to feel almost as a sunbather feels the sun-that warm male glow that came out of him when they were alone together”. This quotation shows a simile which describes in detail Mary’s feelings for her husband. It’s as if she is absorbing all the love, for her as she can, from her husband like a sunbather absorbs the sun’s warmth.
Mary begins to feel frightened. As her husband, behaves differently than normal: “He did an unusual thing. He lifted his glass and drained it in one swallow”. Mrs Maloney is panicked and unnerved by this, as it is not a usual thing for Mr Maloney to do.
Dahl withholds information from the reader. For example: “I’ve got something to tell you. And he told her”. The reader does not know what he told her. Dahl kept this a secret to make the reader think of possibilities for their selves. But he gives slight hints throughout like: “He went further and further away from her”.
Mrs Maloney is very shocked by this turn of event. “Watching him with a kind of dazed horror”. This shows she is like a frightened rabbit who is about to get run over. The horror in its eyes is the horror in Mrs Maloney’s eyes.
Mrs Maloney wants to think of, her husband leaving her, as a bad dream. “When she sort of woke up again, she might find none of it had ever happened”. This tells us that she is not very strong enough to handle truths and reality. She wants to live in a world where: her husband loves her, as much as she loves him; everything is in routine. She’s in denial.
Mrs Maloney is very robotic. “Everything was automatic now”. This quotation show she is used to going to the cellar but that day was “automatic” her feet knew where to go but, her mind was somewhere, in deep thought-to what her husband “told her”. When killing her husband, Mrs Maloney is irritated, confused and mainly shocked. Her mind was not in its right state. “Bring her out of shock”. The reader can tell she was going to hit him because “she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air”. This suggests, that from the cellar, to the point where she hits him is all done out of sense. Also the way she kills him is obscure.
The reader is shocked when Mrs Maloney kills her husband because at the start of the story she is described as a “tranquil”, stereo-typical housewife who depends on her husband. But she kills him. You never imagine it could happen. It is an unexpected twist. Dahl wants the reader not to imagine it as it gives more of an effective reaction, later in the story.
Mrs Maloney has no regret or remorse...
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