Characterization in "Lamb to The Slaughter"

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 466 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Words: 466|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

"Lamb to the Slaughter," a short story by Roald Dahl, is a masterful example of how characterization can drive a narrative forward. In this story, the protagonist, Mary Maloney, undergoes a dramatic transformation from a seemingly docile housewife to a cunning and manipulative figure. Through Dahl's careful crafting of her character, the reader is taken on a journey of suspense, irony, and ultimately, shock.

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At the beginning of the story, Mary is depicted as the epitome of a devoted wife. She is described as being "tranquil," with a "slow smile" and a voice that is "gentle." These characteristics suggest a sense of calm and contentment in her life. Her devotion to her husband, Patrick Maloney, is evident in her actions as she eagerly awaits his return from work, preparing his favorite meal and doting on him with affection.

However, as the story unfolds, we see a different side of Mary. When Patrick reveals that he is leaving her, her reaction is one of shock and disbelief. Dahl uses dialogue and internal monologue to convey Mary's inner turmoil, highlighting her desperation and vulnerability. The sudden shift in her character from submissive to assertive is both surprising and compelling, drawing the reader further into the narrative.

As Mary grapples with the reality of her situation, she takes matters into her own hands in a shocking act of violence. The murder of Patrick is a turning point in the story, marking the climax of Mary's transformation. Dahl's portrayal of Mary as a cold and calculated killer is chilling, as she calmly disposes of the murder weapon and orchestrates an alibi to evade suspicion.

Throughout the story, Dahl uses characterization to explore themes of deception, betrayal, and the limits of human nature. Mary's evolution from a passive victim to a cunning perpetrator challenges the reader's assumptions about her character, forcing them to confront their own preconceptions and biases. By delving into the complexities of Mary's psyche, Dahl creates a nuanced and multi-dimensional character that defies easy categorization.

Ultimately, the characterization of Mary in "Lamb to the Slaughter" serves as a testament to the power of storytelling. Through her journey of self-discovery and transformation, Dahl invites the reader to question their own perceptions of right and wrong, good and evil. By blurring the lines between protagonist and antagonist, victim and perpetrator, he challenges us to see the world in shades of gray rather than black and white.

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"Lamb to the Slaughter" is a riveting exploration of character development and moral ambiguity. Through the character of Mary Maloney, Roald Dahl demonstrates the complexity of human nature and the capacity for both good and evil within us all. By immersing the reader in Mary's world, Dahl forces us to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and the world around us, leaving a lasting impact long after the story has ended.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Characterization in “Lamb to the Slaughter”. (2024, March 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Characterization in “Lamb to the Slaughter”.” GradesFixer, 15 Mar. 2024,
Characterization in “Lamb to the Slaughter”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jul. 2024].
Characterization in “Lamb to the Slaughter” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 15 [cited 2024 Jul 17]. Available from:
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