Comparison of Lamb to the Slaughter and The Speckled Band

The following sample essay on Comparison of Lamb to the Slaughter and The Speckled Band. I am going to compare the similarities and differences in ‘The Speckled Band’ and ‘Lamb To The slaughter’. I will focus on key points of murder mysteries such as; the plot, characterisation, setting, and how the author creates suspense for the reader. Typical ingredients of a murder mystery is that there’s the murder, the murderer, the victim, suspects, detectives and or police men, clues; some of these will maybe be red herrings to try and throw the view off the scent, and the motive.

One of the short stories I am comparing is ‘The Speckled Band’; this was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was published in 1892.

A brief synopsis of the story is that the female protagonist (Helen Stoner) sister (Julia Stoner) has died is suspicious circumstances with no clues left. The main suspect is her step father (Dr Roylott) who is trying to inherit the money left to the by their mother.

Sherlock Holmes is hired to investigate. The other story is ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’; this was written by Roald Dahl and published in 1954. A brief synopsis of the story is that the female protagonist (Mary Maloney) being the stereotypical housewife, and waiting for her husband (Patrick Maloney) to return.

He returns; he has to tell her something tells her and she starts acting strange. She carries on as normal and goes to prepare dinner. She gets the giant leg of lamb and clubs him to death with it.

Get quality help now
Prof. Finch

Proficient in: Book Summary

4.7 (346)

“ This writer never make an mistake for me always deliver long before due date. Am telling you man this writer is absolutely the best. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

She then makes her alibi whilst the police search for clues. Ironically they end up eating the only clue. ‘The Speckled Band’ being written in 1892 and ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ being written in 1954, shows that the difference in dates written makes a difference for the choices made by both the authors.

For example ‘Lamb to the Slaughter; has a female killer instead of a male killer which there would have been in 1892 in ‘The Speckled Band’. Also ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ doesn’t use old fashioned English as ‘The Speckled Band’ does. In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ the story starts out as Mary being the victim as we presume that her husband has told her that he is leaving her and her unborn child, we see Patrick as the villain in this part. In ‘The Speckled Band’ we know straight away who is portrayed as the villain, Dr Roylott.

In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ we are told that it is set in a warm, homely, modern household. “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, whisky. Fresh ice cubes in the thermos bucket”. This also gives the impression that it is a routine performed every day. In ‘The Speckled Band’ it is set in the 1800’s and people travel by train and dog-cart.

We know this because Helen Stoner travelled on both of them. I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm of your left glove. You must have started early, and yet you had a good drive in a dog-cart, along heavy roads, before you reached the station”. The setting of the crime in ‘The Speckled Band’ is stereotypically correct as it is eerie, mysterious old house. “This building was of grey, lichen blocked stone”. Suspicion is aroused at the murder site, all of the animals roaming around and the gypsies make the reader suspicious that something is going to happen. The villain of ‘The Speckled Band’ is Dr Roylott.

He is described as very tall “So tall was he that his hat actually brushed the cross bar of the doorway” and is compared to a bird of prey, “His deep set, bile shot eyes, and high thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey”. He is an aggressive man “Last week he hurled the local blacksmith over a parapet into a stream”. The villain of ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is Mary Maloney. To start with you wouldn’t think this as she is presented as a typical loving, caring housewife who would do anything for her husband, she is also six months pregnant.

Darling shall I get your slippers? ” “She took his coat and hung it in the closet. Then she walked over and made the drinks”. She is not the typical villain of a murder mystery story, but as the story progresses we discover what she is actually capable of. Both the villains are similar in the way that they prepare alibis to get away with their crimes. Dr Roylott used his knowledge of Indian animals, for example the snake he used to kill Julia Stoner with, because he knew the coroner wouldn’t be able to trace the poison or spot the fang marks.

Mary used her used her position of a loving wife of a detective to manipulate the officers away from the truth, eventually ironically making them eat the murder weapon. She knew what would have happened to her and her child so she needed a way to stop her from going to jail. Both of the murderers are cunning and both have motives. We sympathise more for Mary because ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is written in the third person narrative, so we see the story from her perspective. The story concentrates on Mary’s feelings, so we never hear Patrick’s side of the story.

In ‘The Speckled Band’ Watson is narrating so he is biased towards Holmes, again we never hear Dr Roylotts point of view so this makes him be portrayed as selfish unreasonable and aggressive therefore having no sympathy for him. The victim of ‘The Speckled Band’ is Julia Stoner and Helen Stoner because of all the mental grief and worrying she has done. We know she has been through a lot of stress as it says “Her features and figure were those of a woman of thirty, but her hair was shot with premature grey, and her expression was weary and haggard”. Both of the women are portrayed as very vulnerable and defenceless.

Very typical of the time as there would not have been many male victims. The victim in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is Patrick Maloney. He comes across as though something is worrying or bothering him. Then we find out he has to tell Mary something which we presume is that he’s leaving her. His agitation is shown in short abrupt sentences “sit down” “sit down for just a minute sit down”. As he is answering Mary in such a manner, I don’t think the readers sympathise with Patrick because he is portrayed as uncaring for presumably leaving Mary and her unborn child.

This makes him seem like the villain more than the victim. The detectives of ‘The Speckled Band’ are Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr Watson. Compared to ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ Holmes takes a more professional role than the officers in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’. Holmes thinks about his duties as a detective first, always thinks methodically about evidence and facts and he takes every little event and clue into account making him very precise. He often goes out of his way to solve the crimes and uses his knowledge as well. “It would be a sharp eyed coroner indeed to distinguish the two dark punctures”.

He acts very calmly and tries to calm down the other people by being gentle and caring towards them. “Soothingly bending forward and patting her forearm”. The detectives in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ are Jack Noonan another man known as O’Malley and other officers who are not named. These detectives are close to Mary and Patrick because of Patrick’s job. This means they start comforting Mary not for one minute believing that she could of commit such a crime. This is very unprofessional compared to Holmes in ‘The Speckled Band’.

They let social lives take priority, “one by one the others came in and were persuaded to take a little nip of whisky”, this being unprofessional like because they shouldn’t drink on the job. The detectives presume that of course the murderer was a man “Get the weapon and you’ve got the man”. We done expect the detectives to be acting like this, we expect them to be acting professionally and to take all the clues and evidence into consideration, especially at the end we have the dramatic irony of them eating the murder weapon and O’Malley saying to Jack “Probably right under our very noses”.

As a modern audience I think that we would prefer Holmes as the detective as it is a very mysterious crime and the audience are wondering all the way through the story how it is going to be solved. In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ tension is built up gradually. The change of atmosphere contributes towards this and also the change from long complex sentences to short, sharp and abrupt sentences. This helps to create tension and build up suspense; it becomes more dramatic as the pace increases.

An example of the slow pace is “Then she walked over and made the drinks, a strongish one for him and a weaker one for herself” this gives the reader a sense of relaxation and calmness. Then as the pace quickens and the sentences get shorter “Ill get it she cried jumping up” “Sit down he said” it becomes tenser and less calm. I think the tension build up is quite sudden because the murder is such a surprise and comes out of the blue; this is because we don’t expect Mary to perform such a crime because of her profile at the beginning of the story.

In ‘The speckled Band’ the tension surrounding Julia’s death is created by creating an expectation of the reader that something will happen. This is quite typical of the period it was written in. The noises in the story are eerie and create suspense that something is going to happen, and also the weather. Storms are considered scary and normally signify that something is going to happen. Some of the verbs used to create suspense are “sprang” “rushed” and “slowly”.

Sprang” gives the impression that something just suddenly sprang out, “Rushed” gives the impression that they need to rush what they were doing or something may happen, and “Slowly” gives an impression that they need to do It slowly or something may happen. The way Julia is described adds to the tension as it creates strong images in your imagination, “Dreadfully convulsed” “Swaying” and “Terrible pain”. The tension building techniques used are more obvious in this story compared to ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ because there a lot more details and description about the murder.

This captures the reader’s attention, the sentences are a lot shorter, which increases the pace and builds suspense, and they match the feelings of Helen and Julia’s characters. The structure of ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ focuses on the relationship between Mary and Patrick and her actions towards him. How in a state of shock she committed a crime of passion. Also how she avoids getting caught by getting her alibis and her actions and feelings towards others. This keeps the reader in suspense to see what Mary does next and whether the police will find out what she did, and what will happen to her?

In ‘The Speckled Band’ the focus of the story was how Julia was killed, who? How? Why? What? Where? and When? The reader is in suspense thinking about how Holmes is going to solve the murder. All of these aspects also keep the reader interested and waiting to find out what happened. The reader is kept in suspense during the investigation by all the details and description which adds to the build up of the crime and story and the twists in the story. The reader is in suspense as Holmes puts all the clues and evidence together and then finally he tells how he solved the mystery.

In ‘Lamb to the slaughter’ the story ends with dramatic irony with the police eating the murder weapon, the leg of lamb. At the end Mary also starts to giggle as she realises that she has got away with her crime, or so we are led to believe as that is where the story finishes. ‘The Speckled Band’ ends with Holmes solving the murder, a complete contrast to ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ as that is left unfinished. The ending of ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is left very unclear, with no resolution; we are left feeling uncertain as we do not know what is going to happen to Mary.

The Speckled Band’ on the other hand ends with no unsolved pieces, this is a more traditional ending probably appealing to Victorian audience because he solved the case, beating the evil villain making him the hero and the perfect detective. The ending of ‘lamb to the Slaughter’ would appeal to a more modern audience because Mary is portrayed as a nice person and has her reasons for murder; she tries to escape jail and the crime of passion. It may not be such a bad thing that Mary may get away with the killing because she is pregnant and was in a state of shock so maybe she didn’t know what she was doing.

This type of ending leaves it open to your own imagination. In my opinion ‘The Speckled Band’ was a better story because it had more of a mystery to it, although in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ it was a mystery weather or not Mary would get away with it, I preferred the mystery of the murder trying to be solved. ‘The Speckled Band’ has more twists of story and more suspense in my opinion. I did like the part in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ when the police ironically ate the murder weapon I think this was very clever. Overall I enjoyed both stories but I preferred ‘The Speckled Band’.

Cite this page

Comparison of Lamb to the Slaughter and The Speckled Band. (2017, Oct 14). Retrieved from

Comparison of Lamb to the Slaughter and The Speckled Band
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7