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Lamb to the Slaughter – Roald Dahl

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Nicola Williams 21st September 02 Research Analysis' of Stories Lamb to the Slaughter - Roald Dahl Roald Dahl makes parts of the story unexpected, as people are not who they appear to be. For example, Mary Maloney is not a friendly widow, but a clever murderess. In his stories, the background is perfectly worked out: details are very close to reality. We are introduced into a warm, cheerful and happy scene where nobody would expect anything sinister to be going on. "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. Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work." You can tell from that paragraph alone that Mary Maloney loves her husband very much, everything is set out for him and she is sitting there quietly. ...read more.


Knowing all this, it comes as a shock when Mary kills her husband. There is no feeling of anger, jealousy, hate or even sadness. "Alright, she told herself. So I've killed him." Roald Dahl's choice of words are always very effective, for example, hints of tension rising are found in the transition from ice cubes in Mr Maloney's glass 'tinkling' to 'clinking' as he sets the glass down. Roald Dahl is very good at keeping you wondering what will happen next. His plots are well thought out so at the start you are made to feel safe, then gradually, dropping hints that all is not well. Descriptions like this one, "He had become absolutely motionless, and 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." suggests that there is a dark side to Patrick Maloney, that there is something that he is hiding. ...read more.


Q. When and where was Charles Dickens involved in a train crash and did this influence him when writing the short story The Signalman? A. I was with Ellen Ternan and her mother on a train travelling from Folkestone to London on 9 June 1865, which was derailed while travelling at high speed at Staplehurst, Kent. Rail repair men had misread the schedule and had not expected a train on the line for several hours when they lifted a section of track. As a result the driver was not warned, and ten people were killed, and many more injured, in the terrible crash. Although I had always enjoyed rail travel up to then, I was badly shaken by the experience, and was nervous about travelling thereafter. Not so shaken, however, to prevent me clambering back into a derailed carriage to retrieve the manuscript of the latest instalment of Our Mutual Friend, which I was writing at the time! You can be sure that the emotional horror of experiencing a train wreck was in my mind when I wrote The Signalman a year later. ...read more.

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