Comparing Lamb to the Slaughter and Captain Murderer
In this essay, I am going to compare and contrast the two short
stories "Lamb to the Slaughter" and "Captain Murderer", picking out
techniques used by the authors which make it different to a typical
When one thinks of a murder mystery, one usually thinks of images like
a large, stately home, a cunning butler, and a bloodstained
candlestick, and an intelligent and observant detective with a
comparatively incompetent sidekick. In the end, the detective solves
the case, justice is done and the murderer is put behind bars.
"Lamb to the Slaughter" and "Captain Murderer" both have the
ingredients for a murder mystery, i.e. a murderer who is cold,
calculating and a bit mad, but neither follow the traditional murder
"Lamb to the Slaughter" was written by Roald Dahl, in 1954. He is more
famous for his children's books, but has also written many short
stories for adults, compiled in books such as "Tales of the
Unexpected" and "Switch Bitch". In these books he writes about strange
things happening to ordinary people.
"Captain Murderer" was written by Charles Dickens, one of the literary
greats, more well known for his adult books such as "Great
Expectations" and "Hard Times" about British society before 1900.
The victim in "Lamb to the Slaughter" is Patrick Maloney. Dahl gives
us with quite a shock when we discover this - his wife Mary would have
seemed a more typical victim. The couple seem to have a very
ritualistic relationship, when Patrick breaks the ritual, you can see
something is about to happen: "he did an unusual thing. He lifted his
glass and drained it in one swallow, even though there was half of
itâ€¦left." He then pours himself another, stronger drink. This gives us
a clue that he is about to do something - he might be drinking the
whiskey to reduce the inhibition of telling his wife something he
doesn't want to, or even killing her. He also avoids making
conversation with her, either using one-word answers or not responding
at all. He refuses to have any supper or snacks. Dahl describes all
these unusual actions taken by Patrick to create a sense of uneasiness
or tension in the room.
The victims in "Captain Murderer" are his brides. The two which
feature prominently are the twins. The twins are typical fairytale
characters - beautiful and innocent. Their feelings aren't explored by
Dickens in great depth. This is typical of the fairytale genre: the
feelings and personality of characters generally come second to the
story line in most fairytales.
One of the things that makes "Lamb to the Slaughter" so unlike a
typical murder mystery is that it revolves around the murderer, rather
than the detective or the victim. This perspective helps with the
telling of the murder,...