illustrated tablesetting with a plate containing a large lamb-leg roast resting on a puddle of blood

Lamb to the Slaughter

by Roald Dahl

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Analyze the character development in “Lamb to the Slaughter.”

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In “Lamb to the Slaughter,” the character of Mary Maloney shows some development as she becomes violent, but the other characters are static.

A dynamic character is one whose thoughts or feelings change substantially throughout the text, while a static character does not show any significant change in their interior state. Although Mary’s husband, Patrick, dies, his personality does not undergo any internal transformations before she kills him. The other characters are Sam, the grocer, and Jack Noonan and Charlie O’Malley, the police officers who come to investigate Patrick’s death. Author Roald Dahl shows these men as constant and unchanging. A doctor, two detectives, and a police photographer come to the house; their activities are described, but they do not have speaking roles in the story.

One element of Mary’s character that remains constant is her deep concern for her unborn child. Initially, as she waits for Patrick to come home, she is described as “smiling” and “placid,” and once he arrives, her love for him and enjoyment of his “warm male glow” are emphasized. The transformation in Mary is sparked by Patrick’s announcement that he is leaving her. His news fills her with “horror,” and she feels disoriented and nauseated. The narrator does not explicitly state that she no longer loves Patrick. Instead, her actions are described.

After she kills him, it is revealed that she was in shock while she hit him. From that point on, Mary becomes a calculating person with a clear mind. Her primary goal is to not be identified as the killer, for the baby’s sake. Her determination is evident as she plans how to destroy the evidence. By the end, she is giggling at having succeeded.

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