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Lamb To The Slaughter Story And Movie Comparison Essay

In terms of similarities between the two stories, both perpetrators are women. Both are described as benign and not, supposedly, able to do anyone any harm. Mary Maloney, in "Lamb to the Slaughter," is described as calm and peaceful, with large eyes which emphasize her innocence. The landlady, in the story of the same name, is defined as having a "warm welcoming smile,"a pleasant look, and as someone who "seemed terribly nice."

Furthermore, the two are both responsible for committing capital crimes -- taking the life of another. They both get away with their criminal acts and, seemingly, have committed the perfect crime. In addition, it seems that both wrongdoers derive pleasure from their criminal deeds and possess an inherent malice. Mary laughs at the end of the story ("And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to laugh"), whilst the landlady seems to look forward to the idea of preserving her victim when she says, “I stuff all my little pets myself when they pass away." This is, essentially, where the similarities end.

There are many differences between the two. In the first place, the plots are dissimilar. Mary is a pregnant young woman awaiting the arrival of a much-loved spouse who she kills after hearing that he is going to leave her. She creates an alibi and calls the police, whose investigation does not turn up any definite clues. They, at Mary's insistence, eat the evidence, a cooked leg of lamb which, when frozen, was used as the murder weapon. In the end, Mary laughs when she realizes she is going to get away with murder.

The Landlady, in contrast, relates the story of a middle-aged woman who runs a Bed and Breakfast boarding house. She lives alone and intentionally murders a select number of guests by poisoning them with cyanide (hence the almond smell in the tea). Her latest guest is a seventeen year old, Billy Weaver, who falls for her charm. She systematically sets him up by extending warmth and kindness so that he may unsuspectingly drink his tea, which she laced with arsenic.

Furthermore, the reader knows exactly what Mary Maloney did, since the narrator tells us. In "The Landlady," however, the crime is suggested through a journey of discovery by the new lodger and the landlady's responses to his questions and her actions, such as when she looks him up and down and mentions that her previous tenants are still with her. The references to the stuffed animals also provide clues to her intent. The reader has to infer what she is up to.

In addition, Mary Maloney did not intentionally set out to kill Patrick, her husband. Her actions were not deliberate. In "The Landlady," however, the perpetrator deliberately plans her crime and follows a meticulous routine. There is no need for a cover-up, for it appears that she would never be a suspect. Mary Maloney, though, has to create an alibi, which she does with aplomb.

Another contrast between the two stories is the mood. In "Lamb to the Slaughter," the mood is less foreboding or tense. Mary, although purportedly sad at the beginning, regains her mood and speaks freely to the investigators. In "The Landlady," however, the reader senses the tension and build-up to the malicious malefactor's final act. 

Finally, one could also argue that the stories are contrasts, since the main character in one (Mary) can claim extenuating circumstances for her crime while, such mitigation is absent in "The Landlady."

Short stories and film adaptations are typically known for their wild differences and adjusted story lines. However, Roald Dahl’s short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” and Alfred Hitchcock’s film version have subtle differences that compliment the similarities. The film is suspenseful compared to the short story’s direct progression, Patrick is depicted as more of an antagonist in the film, and Mary’s motives for covering up the murder are more understandable in the text.

Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of “Lamb to the Slaughter” differs from the text through an adjustment of the progression, an intriguing depiction of Patrick’s character, and a lack of sympathy for Mary and her motives. Hitchcock’s version contrasts the directness of the short story by slowing down the progression with the addition of suspense and dialogue. In order to do this, he has Mary talk through her denial after Patrick speaks of leaving her, saying “You can’t go… Patrick, I won’t let you!” This integration of dialogue with a few well-placed silences leads the viewer to suspect Mary’s intentions long before she kills Patrick. Hitchcock also presents Patrick in a way that makes him seem like the antagonist everyone wishes for- an insensitive and harsh villain. Unlike Dahl, Hitchcock reveals to the viewers that Patrick hasn’t been loyal to his wife or his marriage through a conversation between two detectives, one saying that Patrick “used to fool around a bit now and again.” Patrick is also very cold and condescending to Mary in the way he speaks to her. Though Hitchcock portrays Patrick as a stereotypical antagonist, he does not try to make Mary into a relatable or heroic protagonist. In contrast to Mary’s quiet giggle at the end of the short story, Hitchcock’s ending shows Mary smiling and giggling maniacally. He also closes the film by telling the viewers that Mary attempted to kill her husband “the same way,” with uncooked meat. This diminishes any sympathy the viewers might’ve had for Mary. After this it is hard to imagine that Mary’s motives could include anything other than self-interest. It opens us up to the idea that she might have planned out every step towards covering up Patrick’s murder before the night it took place. The film differs from the short story in progression, character depiction, and how self-absorbed Mary’s motives appear.

In Roald Dahl’s original short story, the plot’s progression is more direct, Patrick is less insensitive, and Mary’s motives for covering up her crime are somewhat understandable. Rather than drawing out the storyline with suspense, tension, and dialogue, Dahl follows the plot directly with cadence. For the most part, Dahl skips dialogue and narrates in paragraph form: “Jack Noonan asked if she wouldn’t rather go somewhere else… No, she said. She didn’t feel like she could move even a yard at the moment.” This portrays Mary’s true shock at the situation by showing that the night’s events are unraveling quickly and overwhelmingly, but it is also direct, avoiding lengthy dialogue or rigid suspense. Along with this, Dahl presents Patrick as direct but sensitive. For instance, Patrick never bothered to sit down for his talk with Mary in the film, but in the text he was patient. He sat and “kept his head down so that the light from the lamp beside him fell across the upper side of his face… She noticed there was a little muscle moving near the corner of his left eye.” Patrick’s body language reveals that he feels anxious, and perhaps even remorseful. This encourages the reader to feel sympathy for him, despite his unfaithfulness.  Dahl also portrays Mary’s thoughts in a way that allows us to feel sympathy for her at times.  It stands out to the reader that Mary considers her baby’s future rather than her own after she kills Patrick: “She knew quite well what the penalty would be. That was fine… It would be a relief. On the other hand, what about the child? What were the laws about murderers with unborn children?… Mary Maloney didn’t know. And she certainly wasn’t prepared to take the chance.” Despite her motives for killing Patrick, this clarifies that her motives for covering up the murder were maternal. Ultimately, she lies to protect her child. Roald Dahl’s short story differs from the film in its direct progression, Dahl’s depiction of Patrick, and Mary’s unveiled motives for covering up the murder.

There are several details that could be acknowledged as contrasting points between Roald Dahl’s short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” and Alfred Hitchcock’s film interpretation. However, it is the progression, depiction of Patrick’s personality, and Mary’s motives that are the largest and most subtle differences.

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