How do we write "Lamb to the Slaughter" in first person?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I should think it would be easy to transpose "Lamb to the Slaughter" to a first-person narrative, especially since there are only two important characters in the story and one of them dies fairly early. You would have to write it from the point of view of Mary Maloney, since she is the protagonist and she knows everything about what happened as well as what she did and why she did it. Here is an example with the revised versions in italics:

The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight-hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.

The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight--mine and the other one by my husband Patrick's chair opposite. On the sideboard behind me were two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. There were fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.

Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work.

I was waiting for my husband to come home from work as I always did.

Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time when he would come. There was a slow smiling air about her, and about everything she did. The drop of a head as she bent over her sewing was curiously tranquil. 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. When the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen, and a few moments later, punctually as always, she heard the tires on the gravel outside, and the car door slamming, the footsteps passing the window, the key turning in the lock. She laid aside her sewing, stood up, and went forward to kiss him as he came in.

Now and again I would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please myself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time when Patrick would come. I knew I had a slow smiling air about everything I did, and I felt curiously tranquil as I bent over my sewing--for this was my sixth month with child. My skin had acquired a wonderful translucent quality, my mouth was soft, and my eyes, with their new placid look, seemed larger and darker than before. When the clock said ten minutes to five, I began to listen, and a few moments later, punctually as always, I heard the tires on the gravel outside, and the car door slamming, the footsteps passing the window, the key turning in the lock. I laid aside my sewing, stood up, and went forward to kiss Patrick as he came in.

You shouldn't have to add a lot of subjective material. You don't have to interpret what Mary was thinking. It is largely a matter of turning the "her"s and "she"s into I, mine, me, and my. When you get to the part where Patrick gives his wife a long speech about why he is leaving her, you don't have to say anything more about her reaction--unless you want to, unless you feel creative. For example:

"This is going to be a bit of a shock to you, I'm afraid," he said. "But I've thought about it a good deal and I've decided the only thing to do is tell you right away. I hope you won't blame me too much."

"This is going to be a bit of a shock to you, I'm afraid," he said. "But I've thought about it a good deal and I've decided the only thing to do is tell you right away. I hope you won't blame me too much."

And he told her. It didn't take long, four or five minutes at most, and she sat very still through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from her with each word.

And he told me everything. It didn't take long, four or five minutes at most, and I said very little through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from me with each word.

"So there it is," he added. "And I know it's kind of a bad time to be telling you, but there simply wasn't any other way. Of course I'll give you money and see you're looked after. But there needn't really be any fuss. I hope not anyway. It wouldn't be very good for my job."

"So there it is," he added. "And I know it's kind of a bad time to be telling you, bet there simply wasn't any other way. Of course I'll give you money and see you're looked after. But there needn't really be any fuss. I hope not anyway. It wouldn't be very good for my job."

Her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all. It occurred to her that perhaps he hadn't even spoken, that she herself had imagined the whole thing. Maybe, if she went about her business and acted as though she hadn't been listening, then later, when she sort of woke up again, she might find none of it had ever happened.

My first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all. It occurred to me that perhaps he hadn't even spoken, that I myself had imagined the whole thing. Maybe, if I went about my business and acted as though I hadn't been listening, then later, when I sort of woke up again, I might find none of it had ever happened.

This project should be a whole lot easier than translating the story into a foreign language. It really requires close attention. You want to catch all the references to Mary in the third-person and change them into the the first-person. But her important thoughts and feelings are already included and obvious in the existing story. This is a good assignment and good practice. You could go on and transpose other stories and parts of novels from first-person into third and from third into first, just for developing your writing skill and becoming aware of the differences made by narrators and points of view.

You can get the full text of "Lamb to the Slaughter" on Google, then just transpose it into first-person point of view sentence by sentence. You may run into a few problems, but most of them should be easy to resolve with just a little creative effort.

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