Compare and Contrast Lamb To the Slaughter with The Speckled Band

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

The popular and highly successful author Roald Dahl wrote the story “Lamb to the Slaughter”. The story was first published in 1954. The author Roald Dahl is a famous author and he is most famous for writing stories such as “James and the giant peach” and “The Twits” but as not a lot of people know that he also writes more adult stories like “Tales of the unexpected”. In his books he mostly rights about fictitious characters that are doing strange things with or strange things happening to them. The author of “The Speckled Band” was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Story was first published in the year of 1892.

In this story the main character is a detective called Sherlock Holmes. This character has been in all of this author’s books and Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character. The character Sherlock Holmes is a Scotland Yard detective and he has a very good friend and partner in the police force, Dr Watson. The detective Sherlock Holmes is a very adept detective and he has had lots of famous cases, “Hound of the Baskervilles” keeping in mind that he is a fictional character, thus so are the cases.

The fact that both of the authors wrote about fictional characters and events is the first similarity between the stories. In the short story “Lamb to the slaughter” there are potentially two victims; it all depends on how the reader looks at the story. One way in which the reader can look at the short story is in the physical sense because in this way the husband is the victim as he is the one who is murdered by his wife, “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 Maloney was the victim in this story because even though she was an attentive wife her husband was going to leave her as a lone mother to raise a child by her self, “this was her sixth month with child” and “and I know it’s kind of a bad time to be telling you, But there simply wasn’t any other way. Of course I’ll give you money and see you’re looked after”. The fear of this happening to her was the driving force behind her murderous actions.

Ultimately by killing her husband she brought about the very series of events that she feared the most, being left “as a lone mother to raise a child by her self”. However, being left as a widow does not bear the stigma of an estranged wife so she will receive sympathy and support from family and friends. We know that something is not right in the Maloney household as soon as the husband returns home from work.

We know this because in the narrative it says “He kept his head down so that the light from the lamp beside him fell across the upper part of his face, leaving the chin and mouth in shadow” showing us that he doesn’t want his emotions to tell on his face. We can also deduce that things are not right from the point of him coming home as he seems to be distant from his wife and his actions make her feel uncomfortable,”she moved uneasily in her chair”. Another quote that shows the reader that things are not as usual is “And as he spoke, he did an unusual thing”.

The author also gives the reader plenty of clues that the husband is going to break some distressing news to his wife. As the husband enters you first hear that he slams the door of his car, “she heard… the car door slam”, he then proceeds to swallow his drink in one and get another which we find out was unusual, “he lifted his glass and drained it in one”, the husband then snaps at his wife when she is merely trying to be kind, “I’ll get it! ” She cried… “Sit down” he said.

Also he ignores her when she is making conversation and then he orders her to sit down and says he wants to tell her something and then reveals that he is going to leave her, “Go on, he said, sit down”, “listen… I’ve got something to tell you”. All of these things are very potent indications to any reading that the husband is going to tell his wife something distressing. In “The Speckled Band” there are many victims. This is because it all depends how the reader interprets the novel.

In all of the points of view you can not deny that the already passed victim of her step father’s devilish plot, Julia Stoner, was indeed a victim. Another one of the characters that one could say was a victim in this tale of death and deception is Helen Stoner, this is because even though she was not murdered she was still mentally tormented by her step father and this is proved by her older than her years description of her, “she was indeed in a state of pitiable agitation, her face drawn grey, with restless, frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal”.

This sentence show that she is indeed in some great state of fear and immense terror. And the third and final person who could be construed as the victim in this story was the murderous step father of the two daughters, Dr. Roylott. This character could be seen as being a victim in this story because in the closing lines of the novel we are told that it was the Doctors own snake that killed him in a cruel twist of fate, “causing it to turn upon its master at the other side”.

So the fact that the fiendish Doctor was killed at the end of the story may lead you to believe that he was indeed a victim of his own evil scheme. This is quite similar to the other story that I have been reading because in both of these novels there is not just one discernable victim but there are two or sometimes three so is this way the stories are similar. Another similarity is that in both stories the murderers are victims of their own actions.

In the story “Lamb to the Slaughter” the murder is swift but deadly and it all stems from the husband telling his wife that he was going to leave her. After this she first continues to do what she would normally do. She went out of the room to make the dinner and down to the freezer to get the leg of lamb that they would be having and even though she was not as content as she would normally have been in normal circumstances she was still relatively fine until her husband snapped once more at her saying “for Gods sake don’t make dinner for me I’m going out”.

After this Mary Maloney simply walked up behind him and with a single skull crushing blow crashed the frozen leg of lamb directly to the back of his head, “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”. In this short story the murder was not premeditated in that she did not plan even for more than a singular minute to kill her husband.

However, once her husband had broken this earth shattering news to his wife and proceeded to become verbally hostile towards her she could not take it any more and killed him. This is what is known as a crime of passion because it is all in the spur of the moment and her only motive for committing such a heinous crime was fear, fear of losing her husband, fear of being an only mother and fear of losing financial security was the only thing driving her to kill.

She felt this fear with a true passion that it gripped her with such force that any rationality she had was overshadowed by it. I believe that the reason that she does not want to be caught for this crime is mainly her unborn child, because in her mind she has already lost her husband and she would do anything to stop herself from losing the baby. Maybe even kill again and this is why she goes to such elaborate lengths to dispose of the evidence, cooking the lamb, and then convincing the police to eat it “Please, she begged, please eat it”.

After finding out that she is pregnant and a good house wife, then finding out that her husband is going to leave at such a bad time I feel that is inevitable that the reader will feel some degree of sympathy for her. The murder in the novel “The Speckled Band” is very different to the murder in “Lamb to the Slaughter”. This is because, as I said earlier, the murder in the short story was fast and swift whereas the murder in this tale was one of extreme longevity.

This is because it takes an extremely long time to engineer all of the specific details that would lead to the death of any of the doctor’s potential victims, the thing that the doctor had to do, the things that ultimately lead to Holmes solving the case, where the ventilator shaft that the snake that he had brought from Africa some years ago would crawl down, the fake bell pull for the snake to return and the bed being bolted to the floor would all take a long time.

So the murder was not swift but finely planned and developed. The events of the first murder, Julia Stoner, are the same as the attempts of the murder on Helen Stoner. These are, the vicious Doctor would release the snake down the ventilator shaft it would crawl down the fake bell pull, then on to the bolted bed and on to the victim. It may not successfully bite the bed’s occupant the first time but eventually it would poison the person and kill them almost instantaneously.

This was worked out impressively by the sleuth Sherlock Holmes. The murder its self is also almost the complete parallel of the first short story in that the murder is extremely complex whereas in “Lamb to the Slaughter” it was a spur of the moment killing. In this narrative the only motive for the murder and attempted murder of the two Stoner sisters was merely to save him money.

This is because, as we are told in the story, if any of the two sisters were to get married they would be allotted a share of the family fortune per year, “a certain annual sum should be allowed to each of us in the event of our marriage” and if this were to happen the Doctor would be left with a meager amount of cash. The Doctor would not have to be so concerned if it were not for the families ancestors who had squandered the families wealth, “four successive heirs were of a dissolute and wasteful disposition, and the family ruin was eventually completed by a gambler” this is the reason that the family was left with such a bare amount.

The motive for this murder is extremely diverse from the motive in “Lamb to the Slaughter” because in “Lamb to the Slaughter” the misdemeanor is one of passion. It was done because of a shocking piece of news but in this narrative the motive is for something as cruel and heartless as money. Another difference in the two stories is that in the first short story you are made to feel some kind of sympathy with her, as I have already said.

On the contrary to this you have this narrative which does not make you have any good feelings for the Doctor because he comes across as being cold and stern and generally disagreeable, and when he dies you get the feeling that he has got what he deserves. Even Sherlock Holmes says at the end of the tale that the fact that he is directly responsible for his death will not cause him any sleepless nights, “In this way I am no doubt indirectly responsible for Dr Grimesby Roylott’s death, and I cannot say that it is likely to weigh very heavily upon my conscience”.

In the short story “Lamb to the slaughter” the setting is mainly the living room of the Maloney House and this is presented as being extremely homely, the words that are used by Roald Dahl are very good at creating a atmosphere that makes the reader feel as if the this is a very blissful home, the exact words used are “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, whisky.

Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos Bucket”. All of this is done to create a warm, cosy and inviting environment which adds to the shock when something so dramatical occurs. The victim in the short story was the husband Mr. Maloney. You were not made to feel much sympathy for this victim because of the situation that he is going to leave her in. The reader is given a perception of a warm and homely atmosphere where a loving wife waits attentively for her husband. This perception changes when the husband’s plans become clear to the reader.

He tells her of how he going to leave her and the warm feeling disappear to be replaced by those of shock, pity and a sense of the husband getting just what he deserves. This is akin to the way the reader is made to feel in the narrative ‘The Speckled Band’ about Dr Roylott. The narrative “The Speckled Band” has an extremely diverse setting from the one that was created in “Lamb to the Slaughter”. The main places that all of the incidents take place are in the manor house of Stoke Moran.

The setting of this house is supposed to give the reader get a sense of apprehension and the feeling that an important event will take place there. The key things that do this are, the shape of the old house “a high central portion, and two curving wings like the claws of a crab”. The comparison to a crab creates a feeling that the house is alive which is a popular theme in many a horror story also the crab does not have very positive connotations because they are seen as being angry snapping creatures.

Also you are told that “the windows were broken, blocked with wooden boards” this quote creates a sense of foreboding danger and that the house is somewhat unsafe. We are also told that there is a Baboon and Cheetah stalking around the grounds, “and he has at this moment a cheetah and a baboon which wonder liberally over his grounds”. This can be seen as a red herring because once the reader finds this out he/she is led to believe that these creatures have something to do with the deaths in the tale. The atmosphere that the house brings with it is one of terror and misery; this is used to create a great sensation of anxiety.

All of the factors that I have established above, like the creatures roaming over the grounds, create a great feeling of evil and uncertainty about the grounds. In a “Lamb to the Slaughter” the detectives are obviously not as qualified, experienced or as skillful as the two detectives in “The Speckled Band”, Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes, I believe this because in “Lamb to the Slaughter” the detectives do not do a crucial thing that the very capable detectives do in “The Speckled Band” the key thing that they do not do is actually solve the crime/murder.

Also in a “Lamb to the Slaughter” the detectives seem to be overly attached to the murderer, Mary Maloney, so they do not even consider that she could be a potential suspect. As well as this the detectives in this short story come across as being incompetent, this is because they do plenty of things that competent detectives would not do. For instance, the foremost thing that the detectives do wrong is to eat the murder weapon, the leg of lamb, “Why don’t you eat up that lamb that’s in the oven… she wants us to finish it be doing her a favor”.

Another thing that the detectives do is to accept a drink off of Mary, which is in a way accepting a drink from the murder. The detectives in this short story can be considered as being exceedingly inept at doing anything successfully to solve the crime. There are moments in the story that prove this. One of these moments are when all of the officers are in the kitchen eating the lamb, which was used to kill her husband, and all talking about where the murder weapon could be, “personally, I think that it’s right here on the premises, probably right under our very nose.

What do you think Jack? and all of this was said at the same time as the detectives where eating the murder weapon! I think that all of the detective’s lack of ability is ultimately what leads to Mary Maloney getting away with murder. On the contrary to a “Lamb to the Slaughter” you have the extremely competent detectives that are in the novel “The Speckled Band” who despite a range of obstacles that stood in the way, Dr Roylott, the wild animals and the difficult clues, manage to solve a complex and perplexing murder and at the same time stop another murder from taking place and killing the murderer.

The fact that the two detectives overcome any hurdles in their way proves that the two of them are far superior to the two in a “Lamb to the Slaughter”. I believe that this is a crucial difference in the two stories because they are murder stories and as we all know two things make up a murder story and these are the murder its self and the detectives who have the ever demanding task of solving it.

The way in which the main detective, Sherlock Holmes solves the crime, unlike the detectives in “Lamb to the Slaughter”, is that he looks at the surrounding and all events for clues to who may have perpetrated the crime and why and how they might have done it. The clues that we are given in this novel, the ones that Sherlock Holmes used to solve the crime, are given to him in the same order as I will place it below.

The first clue they get is that the doctor had already killed a man and this shows that he has got a temper and is not inhibited about using it, “he beat his native butler to death”, the next clue that we get is that if any of the doctors daughter were to marry the doctor would have to give them an annual sum of money leaving him with a lot less money and the fact the first daughter was going to marry when she was killed was a big clue, “a provision that a certain annual sum should be allowed to each of us in the event of our marriage”.

The next clue that was given to both the reader and the detectives is that the doctor collects African animals; “he has at this moment a cheetah and a baboon”. Then the detectives are not told any more clues but they see them for them selves.

The next bunch of clues that they get all come at once when they are in Julia Stoner’s room because they see that the bed is bolted to the floor to prevent it from going anywhere else, also they discover a bell pull that does not work so is referred to as a “rope”, then they discover the ventilator that goes in to the doctors room and then they see that the doctors chair in his room was well used to being stood upon.

The detective, I say detective not detectives because it is only Holmes who picks up on the clues not Watson, in this story picks up on all of the clues that are left whereas the detectives in “Lamb to the Slaughter” did not even get one clue as to who has committed the crime. I feel that the detective’s ability far outreaches the ability of the detectives in the short story and I think that Sherlock Holms is an exceedingly talented detective.

Using the clues that we are given in the novel I did conclude that the murderer was the doctor and that the murder weapon in this case was some kind of African snake. At this point I think that it is good to point out that another difference between the two stories is that “Lamb to the Story” is a murder story where from the point of the murder you know that that the murderer was his wife, however, in “The Speckled Band” you are given clues to see if you can work it out.

In “Lamb to the Slaughter” I have already said how incompetent the detectives were so as a result of this the woman, Mary Maloney, actually gets away with the murder because the detectives do not have any evidence to use if they did work it out to convict her of anything, due to them eating the murder weapon. I think that this twist of the murderer getting away with it was very creative because in standard murder tales the detective will always solve the mystery and save the day but this one is quite the opposite to this so I do like the twist in this story.

I am also impressed with the particular twist used in this story and feel some respect for Mary Maloney. As I just mentioned in a murder story there is normally a ‘flash’ detective who is renowned for solving many a perplexing crime. Nevertheless in this story Roald Dahl has written the detectives to be almost comical and incredibly incompetent at there job and this is very odd in a murder story.

Tagged In :

Get help with your homework

Haven't found the Essay You Want? Get your custom essay sample For Only $13.90/page

Sarah from CollectifbdpHi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out