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While both stories are murder stories, Lamb to the Slaughter is not a
typical murder mystery. A typical murder mystery would be one where a
dashing detective saves the damsel in distress from the evil murderer
in an old mansion. Quite simply, that describes the story in The
Adventure of the Speckled Band.
On the other hand, Lamb to the Slaughter is not a bit typical. It is
set in a warm home where a woman is knitting and peacefully counting
away the time before her husband comes home.
It could be argued that Mrs Maloney would more likely be a victim in a
story, rather than a murderer. In the early part of the play she is
"Her skin - for this was her sixth month with child - had acquired a
wonderful translucent quality, the mouth was soft, and the eyes, with
their new placid look, seemed larger, darker than before."
Dr Roylott is much more sinister, and in that way the story was quite
"Violence and temper approaching to mania has been hereditary in the
men of the family"
The character of Mrs Maloney is by far the more interesting of the
two. She starts as a kind and loving housewife, and ends up as some
sort of almost psychopathic killer.
There are many cultural differences between The Adventure of the
Speckled Band and Lamb to the Slaughter. We can see many technical
advances in Lamb to the Slaughter because of the differing time
setting. The Adventure of the Speckled Band has dogcarts, veils and
frock coats. Contrasting with this, Lamb to the Slaughter has
freezers, cars and ovens.
In The Adventure of the Speckled Band, women are regarded as helpless
and cannot make decisions. In contrast, Lamb to the Slaughter shows a
woman who can make decisions for herself. This is shown when Mrs
Maloney makes drinks. Mrs Maloney would appear to have a sort of
strength of character, shown by the fact that seems to be stable and
in control, even when Patrick is dead. In contrast, in The Adventure
of the Speckled Band the women seem helpless and unable to choose.
The mansion in The Adventure of the Speckled Band is typical of a
murder mystery story. This is shown by:"two curving wings, like the
claws of a crab, thrown out on each side". The Maloney household
however is not typical at all. It is a warm 1950's home. This is
probably to lull you into a false sense of security, and believe that
everything is calm before the shocking murder.
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Both stories revolve around one character. In Lamb to the Slaughter,
this is Mrs Maloney and in The Adventure of the Speckled Band it is Dr
Roylott. The main focus in Lamb to the Slaughter is whether Mrs
Maloney will get away with it. Lamb to the Slaughter is humorous,
contrasting with the seriousness of The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
The murder in TheAdventure of the Speckled Band is more sinister and
planed. The mystery needs to be solved, and the motive is personal
However, Lamb to the Slaughter is written focusing on the murderer.
This technique is most probably used because it helps to show the
emotion and thoughts of Mrs Maloney. This contrasts with the fact that
in The Adventure of the Speckled Band, the attention focuses on the
detective, which is a preferred technique of murder mystery writers,
probably because it leaves room for a sequel.
The Adventure of the Speckled Band is written in the first person.
Lamb to the Slaughter, however, is in the third person. Usually
writing in the first person would give a greater indication of the
characters feelings and emotions. In this instance this is not the
case as the Speckled Band, although written in first person, is set
out as a very clinical, scrupulous report. The detailed description of
Mrs Maloney's emotion in Lamb to the Slaughter gives it a more
personal feel. To add to this high level of description, Mrs Maloney
is in every scene, allowing the reader to get even closer to her. As a
result, Mrs Maloney receives more sympathy.
In Lamb to the Slaughter, suspense is created when routine is broken
early on in the book:
"And as he spoke, he did an unusual thing. He lifted his glass and
drained it in one swallow although there was still half of it, at
least half of it left."
To add to this, there is also suspense later on when she has killed Mr
Maloney. The reader wonders if she will get caught. In contrast with
this, suspense is created in The Adventure of the Speckled Band later
on in the play when Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are hiding in Helen
Roald Dahl keeps the reader wondering about what Mr Maloney told his
wife. The obvious assumption to make is that he has had some sort of
affair, although we never know. It would definitely seem, though, that
by her reaction we can presume it was a scandalous event of some sort.
Arthur Conan Doyle uses lots of similie to add to his description.
Also, much of the language in The Adventure of the Speckled Band is
old, and could even be misconstrued in today's society. Lamb to the
Slaughter is much more up to date and recent.
In Lamb to the Slaughter, the detectives led by Jack Noonan play a
comparatively small role to that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. It
would also appear that the detectives in Lamb to the Slaughter are
unreliable and unintelligent, contrasting with the intelligent and
heroic Sherlock Holmes.
The ending in The Adventure of the Speckled Band is one that is quite
"chilling", yet it completes the whole story leaving nothing else to
be worked out. This contrasts with the ironically humorous end of Lamb
to the Slaughter, where the policemen eat the murder weapon. This is
again not conforming to the norms of murder mystery stories. In Lamb
to the Slaughter, you wonder if Mrs Maloney will get away with it.
In Lamb to the Slaughter the reader is constantly updated with the
facts and information of the time. In The Adventure of the Speckled
Band, the plot is only unravelled right at the last stage.
Another contrasting point is that Conan Doyle set out to make a
"normal" detective story. Dahl set out to go against the principles of
normal murder detective stories and has definitely succeeded.
I personally think that The Adventure of the Speckled Band, although
good in many respects, is too long-winded and descriptive. It is also
very predictable and serious. In contrast, Lamb to the Slaughter is
humorous, too the point and interesting to read.
The Adventure of the Speckled Band is also more old-fashioned, making
it even less appealing.
The development of character in Roald Dahl's story seems much more
interesting. The likely victim ends up murderer, the likely murderer
ends up dead and the detectives just seem a bit slow to catch on from
the moment they are introduced.
As such I favour Lamb to the Slaughter, and other works of Roald Dahl.
Both books do entertain different audiences and both are recognised as