A Critical Analysis of Lamb to the Slaughter

Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl is a darkly comic and a slick tale of the disruption of domestic comfort. It details a surprising account of a betrayed marriage and a life lost against all expectations. The author tricks the reader into connivance with homicide, just like the murderer tricks authorities with her version of evidence. The story revolves around Mary Maloney, a heavily pregnant woman, awaiting her first child with Patrick, her husband. Unable to process the idea of being left by her husband, Mary kills her husband with a frozen lamb leg. In Lamb to the Slaughter, the author creatively applies suspense, imagery, and tension to create contradictions and contrasts that make the story unique and exciting to the reader.

Roald Dahl is among the most recognizable British writers with an eye for sarcasm and humor in his writing. Lamb to the Slaughter shows numerous instances of the writer’s literary prowess. Dramatic irony, verbal irony, and imagery are the most prominent writing skills evident in the short story. The author utilizes word choice to paint vivid images to the readers. In the first paragraph, the author applies imagery in describing Mary’s house. He uses descriptive language to illustrate the house’s setup, giving the reader a clear imaginative view of the house. For example, the author writes, “On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey” (Dahl 1). Therefore, the writer is skilled in making the reader feel part of the story’s plot.

One distinct characteristic of Dahl’s writing is the lack of detail in the story, particularly regarding what caused the couple trouble, including murder. The author portrays the couple as happily married, with Patrick’s wife loving him wholeheartedly. The husband tells the wife to sit down because he wants to tell her something (Dahl 1). Interestingly, the author does not say to the reader what Patrick says to his wife, illustrating the lack of detail in the story. Patrick’s wife kills her husband using a lamb’s leg after this conversation that the reader does not know.

Dahl uses tension to keep the reader hooked to the story. This technique forms a central part of the story’s plot. The writer describes some scenes with great detail and does the opposite in other areas, allowing readers to conclude. The vague description of Patrick’s conversation with his wife before his death contrasts the detailed description of the house in the opening paragraph. As the reader tries to keep up with the plot by filling the gaps, Dahl’s clever approach ensures that the story develops interestingly with multiple perspectives.

Contradictions and contrasts characterize Lamb To The Slaughter’s Plot. The story may give readers a head spin given the number of contradictions and contrasts. Patrick’s pregnant wife continues to nature him while he is contemplating on leaving her. In the conventional sense, the reader will not expect such a change in the story’s plot considering her love for her husband, and she is scheduled to be a mother. The murder is shocking to the reader because the author does not share the details of the initial conversation. Similarly, her actions after the murder are unexpected. For example, the author writes, “then she washed her hands, ran upstairs, sat down in front of the mirror, fixed her makeup…” (Dahl 3). A person who has just committed murder is unlikely to be as calm as Mary.

The author illustrates a mastery of psychological horror, where the lack of openly fantastical features only emphasizes the horrific atmosphere. The entire short story takes place in a conventional house, but Dahl expertly brings out horror elements. For example, the officers end up eating the same murder weapon, a cooked lamb leg. Mary amusingly giggles for managing to trick the police. In this regard, the author uses his skills to bring out the horror and humor in a conventional occurrence of homicide.

Like most stories that navigate the intrigues of reality and appearances, Dahl tells much of the story through carefully selected details. He arranges it into numerous patterns that cause readers to look beneath the surface to establish the story’s meaning. For example, early in the story, the author refers to Mary’s large, dark, placid eyes, referring to her domestic and harmless personality (Dahl 4). The author refers to this characteristic again when she convinces her friend to eat the cooked lamb leg. A deep analysis of the description reveals her deceptive appearance. Throughout the story, Dahl uses natural, normal, easy, and simple words, which acquire ironical overtones.

To sum it up, in Lamb to the Slaughter, the author creatively applies suspense, imagery, and tension to create contradictions and contrasts that make the story unique and exciting to the reader. Dramatic irony, verbal irony, and imagery are the most prominent writing skills evident in the short story. The author utilizes word choice to paint vivid images to the readers. One distinct characteristic of Dahl’s writing is the lack of detail in the story, particularly regarding what caused the couple trouble, including murder. Dahl uses tension to keep the reader hooked to the story. This technique forms a central part of the story’s plot as contradictions and contrasts characterize the story. The story may give readers a head spin given the number of contradictions and contrasts.

Works Cited

Dahl, Roald. Lamb to the Slaughter: A Roald Dahl Short Story. London: Penguin, 2012. Print.

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