Roald Dahl – Lamb To The Slaughter – Character Profile – Mary Maloney Essay, Research Paper
TASK: Write a personality profile of the main character (Mary Maloney) in the story. Consider appearance, personality, motive and behavior.
Mary Maloney is a perfect and devoted house wife, also an expectant mother. She waits happily each night for the arrival of her husband Patrick from work at the police station. But on one Thursday night, she comites an almost perfect murder.
The author Roald Dahl has developed the character of Mary Maloney both through direct and indirect characterization. This reveals her character as being dynamic through her words and personality, and is what makes this short story a success.
The first scene is one of a typical house wife longing for her husband to return from work. Everything appears to be too perfect and it was almost as if she was expecting something odd to happen. After her husband Patrick reveals his affliction, Mary’s behavior changes from being wife-pleasing-husband to self-observant women who was unstable and quite aggressive. It was almost as if she hits her husband over the head with the leg of lamb naturally, and without hesitation. “….Mary Maloney simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought it down as hard as she could….” She had rejected what her husband had just told her and goes into a state of mind where she had blocked out reality and where her actions are the result of this metamorphoses behavior. Her devotion to Patrick became so obsessive to the point of killing him.
Mrs. Maloney was faced with a number of challenges and problems which she had to overcome, both emotionally and psychologically. She had to cope with the realization of rejection of her husband and come to terms with the fact that her marriage was over. Also, she had to deal with the actual murder of Patrick and establish an alibi.
But Mary Maloney was a clever women and it was almost as if she suddenly knew what to do after killing her husband. It was as if she had been prepared for months. She tries successfully to simulate normal behavior as much as possible by acting out her daily routine. “She sat down before the mirror, tided her face, touched up her lips and face. She tried a smile. It came out rather peculiar. She tried again”. Mary Maloney’s decision to cover up the murder was most likely based on her unborn child. She considered the fait of the baby and wasn’t prepared to take any chances. As the wife of a detective she knew what the penalty would be. The unborn child was the motive for her actions after the murder. Also, the fact that she was an expectant mother convinced the reader to feel for her and somewhat made them wanting her to get away with the murder. Throughout the story she is described as an inoffensive and harmless person which further reveals to the reader that she didn’t intend to kill her husband and that what she did afterwards was for the unborn child.
Establishing an alibi was an easy task for Mrs. Maloney. She makes intelligent conversation with Sam, the grocery shop owner. She explains to him that Patrick was at home and didn’t want to go out that night, leaving her with no vegetables in the house for supper. Her technique was to keep on asking her questions, asking what he would suggest for dessert, so later when the police would arrive, Sam would remember quite clearly remember Mrs. Maloney’s visit. He would tell the police that she was in a normal state of mind and cheerful state, and therefore, letting her off the hook.
We see even more deceitfulness through her words when she eradicates all of the evidence. When the police arrive and are searching for a weapon, she asks for her husbands whiskey. “Would you mind giving me a drink? Sure, I’ll get you a drink. You mean this whiskey? Yes please” All of the detectives end up having a drink and stop searching for the evidence. When the lamb is consumed by the officers, the reader further realizes that Mary Maloney gets away easily by using deceitful lies and a concrete set of plausible words. But there was one more extraordinary act to follow. “And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle.” By doing so she was proclaiming that she was indeed independent and not entirely subservient and able to make her own decisions based on her own thoughts. She was no more the loving and faithful wife as described at the beginning of the story.
We were with Mary Maloney from the very start, and only at the end do we realise that we never really knew her at all.