In "Lamb to the Slaughter," what would be some words from the text (diction) that I could use to describe Mary Maloney? I don't really understand annotation (diction, imagery, etc.) and since...

In "Lamb to the Slaughter," what would be some words from the text (diction) that I could use to describe Mary Maloney?

I don't really understand annotation (diction, imagery, etc.) and since almost every word, expression, etc. has a double meaning I REALLY need help with this. Thanks!

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Roald Dahl chose not to have Patrick Maloney explain why he wanted out of their marriage. The author purposely made Patrick's motivation vague because he wanted to avoid suggesting anything that might arouse suspicion of Mary. For instance, if Patrick was having an affair with another woman, it was likely to be known to other people. He and the other woman would have been seen together. It is hard to conduct extramarital affairs without causing gossip. Then it could be surmised that Mary was jealous and might have murdered her husband in a fit of jealous rage.

Patrick is not abusive, as can be seen in the measured way in which he talks to his wife.

Patrick is not a heavy drinker, as seen by the fact that she is surprised to see him drinking two strong drinks on this occasion.

Since Patrick's motivation isn't brought out in his dialogue, the reader is left to deduce it from the description of the way Mary treats him.

"Tired, darling." "Yes," he said. "I'm tired.

He is tired of her. Who wouldn't be tired of a homelife with such a needy, clinging, suffocating wife? She is blameless, she is devoted, and yet she is driving him crazy with her possessiveness.

She took his coat and hung it in the closet. Then she walked over and made the drinks, a strongish one for him, a weak one for herself; and soon she was back again in her chair with the sewing, and he in the other, opposite.

This suggests the cloying nature of their relationship. He can't escape from her loving attentiveness. There is just too much togetherness.

"I'll get it!" she cried, jumping up. "Sit down," he said.

"Darling," she said. "Would you like me to get you some cheese?"

"If you're too tired to eat out," she went on, it's still not too late. "There's plenty of meat and stuff in the freezer, and you can have it right here and not even more out of the chair."

It should be noted that she has no conversational aptitude. This is largely because she is confined to her home almost all the time, with nothing to do but wait or her adored husband to come home. She can only talk about him and ask him questions. Consequently, he is made to feel a prisoner and as someone who has to provide the entertainment for his wife. No doubt she will want him to tell her all about his day.

The story is strongly reminiscent of John Collier's "The Chaser," which is thoroughly covered by eNotes. In Collier's story, the old man who sells love potions also sells undetectable poisons to be used by men who have gotten tired of their wives' possessiveness.

"She will want to know all you do," said the old man. "All that has happened to you during the day. Every word of it. She will want to know what you are thinking about, why you smile suddenly, why you are looking sad. . . . How carefully she will look after you! She will never allow you to be tired, to sit in a draught, to neglect your food. If you are an hour late, she will be terrified. She will think you are killed, or that some siren has caught you."

You should quote directly from Mary Maloney's dialogue, as I have done, to show what kind of a woman she is and also to suggest why her husband wants a divorce.

shadowheart007 | Student