What is the symbolism and point of view in the short story "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

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tthusing's profile pic

tthusing | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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"Lamb to the Slaughter" is written in 3rd person limited point of view.  We can see this because the narrator comments on Mary's thoughts and feelings, but cannot comment on any other characters.  This differs from 1st person because 1st person uses "I" and "me".  2nd person would be written as if you, the reader, were experiencing everything.  (You walk down a hall way and turn to find a dragon!)  This also differs from 3rd person omniscient because 3rd person omniscient can comment on the thoughts and feelings of every character in the story.

As far as the symbolism, you need to be more specific.  Do you mean the theme?

sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The point of view in "Lamb to the Slaughter" is third person; although, the third person perspective is not the common omniscient point of view.  We know that the story is in third person, because of the use of pronouns like "he" and "she."  If the story were written in first person, the reader would be reading "I" and "me."  The point of view is third person limited.  It is limited to Mary Maloney.  The reader knows what is going on inside of her head, but not what is going on inside of anybody else's head.  

As for symbolism, the best choice for a symbol from the story is the symbol of the lamb.  Dahl plays with this symbol quite a bit.  From the initial title, a reader could assume that a lamb is going to be killed.  Or at the very least, somebody with lamb-like characteristics will be killed.  Lambs tend to be gentle, docile, weak, and most importantly, followers.  This is how Mary is first portrayed.  When the reader meets her, it is clear that she lives for her husband, not herself.  She does not exude confidence, leadership, or strength.  Of course that all changes when she does grab hold of an actual leg of lamb.  Then the symbolic title becomes quite literal.  Mary uses a lamb to physically kill (slaughter) her husband.  

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