Both “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Speckled Band” shares some of the characteristics of murder mysteries. Explain the similarities and differences between the two stories and say which story you think is more compelling to read.
Roald Dahl wrote the story “Lamb to the Slaughter” in 1995. He was born on the 13th September 1916 in Llandolf, South Wales and sadly died in 1991. Some of the other many novels he wrote are the ‘BFG’ and ‘Willy Wonka’. “The Speckled Band” was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was born 22nd May 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland and also sadly died on the 8th July 1930. He wrote many stories on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and amateur detective. Dr Joseph Bell inspired the idea of the character.
In the story of “Lamb to the Slaughter” the mood is warm, friendly and tranquil. We can tell this when the room is described as being “warm and clean”. The “two tall glasses” and the “whiskey” create a homely or domestic mood. A bright, cosy and in a way safe atmosphere is created. When the writer describes the main character as being “without anxiety” and to have a “slow smiling air about her” this adds a calm and quiet feeling to the story. When the word “placid” is used the character gives off the idea of peacefulness and contentment while waiting for her husband to return home from work. The beginning of the story is described as a “blissful time of day”. The atmosphere creates a false sense of security and a murder is not expected, where as a love story is. The tale seems very ordinary. The story is different from traditional detective stories as you find out who the murderer is in the beginning story.
However, at the start of “The Speckled Band” the mood is very extra ordinary. We can tell this when the writer uses the word “singular features”. The case described in the story seems unusual or mysterious especially when we are told a promise of secrecy was made. A very strange and curios mood is set and the reader is left wandering who the young lady in the story is and what is so terrible it is making her shiver from fear. The young lady is described as being “in a considerable state of excitement” and the way she wears a veil as well as being dressed all in black adds to the curiosity of the reader. The mood and the atmosphere suggest that something terrible is going to happen.
This opening is in complete contrast to the one in “Lamb to the Slaughter” as a much more sinister and dark mood is set. The reader is left with many unanswered questions. There is one similarity in both the openings of the stories and this that the tension builds up for example Mr Maloney’s anxiety and the unknown young lady. One of the differences between the two openings is that “The Speckled Band” seems to be a traditional detective story where as “Lamb to the Slaughter” isn’t. “The Speckled Band” is a lot more appealing in the beginning as there is a lot more mystery to the story. Being a witness to the murder in “Lamb to the Slaughter” effects the reader as they are forced to wonder will the murderer get caught?
Mary Maloney’s physical appearance is very feminine where as Dr Roylott is the exact opposite we can tell this when we compare the two. Mrs Maloney has “placid” eyes, a soft mouth, translucent skin and she has “a slow smiling air about her”. Mrs Maloney is also six months pregnant. Mary seems a very feminine and an attractive woman. She also seems very tranquil, pleasant and gentle. The way Mary is sewing and waiting for her husband to return home from work emphasises her femininity. The way Mary “went forward to kiss” her husband when he returns home from and how she made him a drink and offers to get his slippers shows how she is a very loving wife. Mrs Maloney seems to be a typical housewife and very domesticated, her home is very important to her “the room was clean”. In a way the way Mrs Maloney acts around her husband makes her seem pathetic. The reader is overwhelmed with positive details. Mrs Maloney is not a stereotypical villain, as we do not expect her to be the murderer.
After her husband says he is leaving Mary seems as though she doesn’t want to accept it “her first instinct was to not believe any of it”. When her husband shouts at her it brings home the reality and out of anger and passion, as a spur of a moment thing she kills her husband. The murder isn’t planned. Mrs Maloney seems to change after the murder she becomes clever, calm and collected “all right she told herself, I’ve killed him”. She decides to make herself an alibi and she even practises what she is going to do and say. When the police come she cries hysterically and acts out the part very well, although she loved him that much she is truly heartbroken to see him dead.