The tone in “The Speckled Band” is serious, but also melodramatic. The tone and mood of the story is all in the language used by the characters. At the beginning of the story the tone is very serious as the vulnerable woman states her tragic ordeal. “Oh, my God! Helen! It was the band! The speckled band!” As the story progresses the language contains exaggerated sentiments which make the story melodramatic. “By the light of the corridor-lamp I saw my sister appear at the opening, her face blanched with terror, her hands groping for help, her whole figure swaying to and fro like that of a drunkard.”
The author of “Lamb to the Slaughter” Roald Dahl uses an entirely different plot to that of the “The Speckled Band”. Tension is built up through the story until the violent climax at the end in “The Speckled Band”, whereas in “Lamb to the Slaughter” the violent climax is at the beginning and then the tension of the story is all in the fact of whether she gets caught or not, this makes the later part of the story, in my view, less exciting. The “Lamb to the Slaughter” is made up of two parts, the first part lasts about two thirds of the story is extremely serious and sensitive and the last third is comical, where everything builds up to the ironic joke at the end. Both plots of the two stories work well for that story, but I feel that “Lamb to the Slaughter” has a better plot and structure except in the last third, because I feel that everything shouldn’t head towards the joke at the end.
The characters in “Lamb to the Slaughter” are much better than those in “The Speckled Band” because in Mary Maloney’s case we empathize with her fully, which makes her a three dimensional character. Mary Maloney at the beginning of the story is a devoted wife, who is loving and caring for her husband and has an ordinary set routine. “Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work…when the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen, and a few minutes later, punctually as always, she heard tyres on the gravel outside.” As the story progresses her routine is what in my view makes her kill her husband and then saves her from being arrested for it. We know something is slightly wrong in the story when Mary Maloney says “…he did an unusual thing. He lifted the glass and drained it in one swallow although there was still half of it, at least half of it left.” From here on Mary Maloney’s routine is slowly dismantled by her husband until he tells her he is going to leave her. In my view Roald Dahl writes the part where Mary Maloneys husband tells Mary he is leaving her excellently, “I hope you don’t blame me too much. And he told her. It didn’t take very long, four or five minutes at most, and she sat very still through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from her with each word.” This shattering blow hits Mary Maloney so quick, it is not as boring as going into all the details of why her husband is leaving. It is also clever because it is a reflection that she is paying very little attention, and is in a daze to what he is saying. After this blow Mary Maloney desperately tries to re-establish her routine with her husband and pretend nothing has happened, “Maybe if she went about her business and acted as though she hadn’t been listening, then later, when she sort of woke up again, she might find none of it had ever happened.” Mary Maloney finally loses her temper or maybe her state of mind and kills her husband when she walks past him to make the supper and he says, “For Gods sake…don’t make supper for me. I’m going out!” I think she kills him because he has wrecked her life, but he then destroys the most important thing in the world to her, her routine. The violent climax in “The Lamb to the Slaughter” seems to occur more suddenly than in “The Speckled Band” because it is less obvious what will happen. The story starts to become more unrealistic as it becomes more comical. Everything starts to build around the joke at the end, and because of this Mary Maloney becomes a two dimensional character like those in “The Speckled Band”. After Mary Maloney has committed the murder she returns to relying on routine to clear herself. This part of the story is clever, but unlike the character of Mary Maloney we know so far. The other characters in “The Lamb to the Slaughter” are two dimensional, we don’t get to empathise with the husband and Roald Dahl doesn’t have time to build the policemen into proper characters. The tone of the story is serious like that of “The Speckled Band” but unlike “The Speckled Band” the tone changes part way through to a comedy. Roald Dahl builds up tension by having Mary Maloney express her intimacy with her husband and then gradually giving us hints that things are not what they seem in their relationship. “Yes, he said. I’m tired. And as he spoke he did an unusual thing…” Roald Dahl releases the tension built up in the first part of the story in the violent climax, but he doesn’t release it all so we keep reading.
I prefer “The Lamb to the Slaughter” because I find that a story where you get to empathise with characters makes the story a more interesting and believable to read. Both stories have their own qualities and differences better and worse than each other in different aspects.