Compare the Presentation of the Protagonist in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ and ‘Vendetta’ Essay

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In this essay I am going to compare the two main characters in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ and ‘Vendetta’. I am going to analyse both texts and provide an overview.

The main protagonists in both stories are very alike. They both seek avenge on someone they dislike, they are both females and most importantly, they are both murderers. The authors surprise the reader as the tone at the beginning of the texts is not indicative of what happens later. It is surprising because no one would have thought that an average housewife or an old widow were capable of committing such a serious crime. I believe that the author did this intentionally to keep the readers intrigued.

The beginning of ‘Lamb to Slaughter’ is very ordinary. ‘The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight-hers and the one by the empty chair opposite.’ This creates a romantic atmosphere. Many of the women in the 1950’s were homemakers and did not work. As they spent their days at home and were not exposed to the working environment women were perceived to be very innocent, ignorant and naïve.

The language and level of detail provided in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is completely different to ‘Vendetta’. The beginning of ‘Vendetta’ is more descriptive enabling the reader to imagine the setting. ‘The house of widow Saverini, clinging to the very edge…’ This quotation creates suspense and drama which is quite different to the effect of the language used by the author in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’. ‘Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come in from work.’ Here we see language being used in a much simpler way.

Drawing back to similarities in both of the stories, love turns into anger as the thing each protagonist loves the most gets taken away from them. ‘Never fear, my boy, my little baby, you shall be avenged. Sleep, sleep; you shall be avenged.’ The word ‘sleep’ shows that Widow Saverini is in denial about her son’s death as she makes herself believe he is just sleeping. Instead of accepting his death and going through the mourning process she plots the killing of her son’s murderer. It appears she feels obliged to do this.

In ‘lamb to the slaughter’ Mary Maloney despises her husband for a reason the readers do not know. I believe that her love turns to rage because of her obsession with him. ‘She loved him for the way he sat loosely in a chair, for the way he came in a door…’ Repeating the term ‘for the way’ shows that she likes everything he does, regardless of how normal the action seems. When he initially disregarded her she pretended not to be affected by him. However, tension had built up to its peak when Patrick broke the silence, “For God’s sake,” he said, hearing her, but not turning round. “Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out.” When Patrick said this, Mary Maloney came to terms with the fact that Patrick did not want to be in a relationship with her anymore.

In both stories they used odd weapons to kill their victims. Mary Maloney used a ‘Lamb’ whilst Widow Saverini used a ‘Dog’. Mary Maloney has used a lamb as a weapon; this is ironic as lambs symbolise innocence. Lambs also connotate new beginnings; by killing her husband with a lamb, Mary Maloney has created her own new beginning. Roald Dahl has used an oxymoron in the title, the words ‘lamb’ and ‘slaughter’ have opposite effects. The word ‘slaughter’ makes the reader think of negativity whilst ‘lamb’ suggests positivity and happiness. Widow Saverini trained her dog to kill for her. This portrays dogs as obedient to their masters and shows them as loyal animals.

Both women do not leave traces of evidence, portraying them to be conniving and able to plot. ‘She had taught her to tear him up and to devour him without even leaving any traces in her throat.’ The word ‘devour’ is very descriptive as it illustrates an image of eating something hungrily and quickly. In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ Mary Maloney was clever as she quickly fabricated a story which led the police to believe that she was innocent. This was dissimilar to ‘Vendetta’ as she trained her dog for a longer period of time; ‘For three months she accustomed her to this battle, to this meal conquered by a fight.’

Mary Maloney and Widow Saverini did not have to demolish the evidence yet they did. Surprisingly, they both thought of the consequences if anyone were to find out. They both plotted plans on behalf of their children. In ‘Vendetta’, Widow Saverini said: ‘Never fear, my boy, my little baby, you shall be avenged’. She feels like she must avenge her sons death and kills Nicholas on his behalf. Mary Maloney fabricated her plan as she did not want to lose her child if she got caught, ‘As the wife of a detective, she knew quite well what the penalty would be….It made no difference to her….On the other hand, what about the child?’ Although both women are murderers the reader is made to feel empathy for them as they are acting on behalf of their children.

Both narratives end in similar manners as the protaganists manage to conceal their crimes. The closing lines in both stories show that they are content, although they have committed a felony. In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ Mary Maloney is filled with pleasure as she manages to persuade the detectives to eat the lamb; the evidence. ‘And in the other room, Mary Maloney giggled.’ This quotation is an example of dramatic irony as the readers know Mary Maloney’s cunning plan, yet the characters do not.

The final line in ‘Vendetta’ is ‘At nightfall the old woman was at home again. She slept well that night.’ This quotation shows her satisfaction and she does not have a guilty conscience; instead she was peaceful as she ‘slept well’. In addition to this, the readers knew that she had not been sleeping well as she was excited; she wanted to plot revenge against Nicholas Ravolati. ‘The mother suddenly got hold of an idea, a savage, vindictive, fierce idea. She thought it over until morning.’ This portrays that she was relieved that she had killed Nicholas; she felt like it was a burden; she thought she was obliged to kill him.

In conclusion both authors have chosen various techniques to portray the protagonists including language and setting. However both characters felt the need to commit the crimes, they do not feel remorse and are not the stereotypical of women of their time.

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