We react to the story in that we really try to find out how the girl was killed. I know that when I was reading ‘The Speckled Band’ and had to put it down, I kept thinking about how the murder had happened, and it was almost a relief to finish it! It is an unusual story in that you want to know how it happened and not who had done it. In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, the reader is very much involved right from the beginning. We are drawn into the story when we find out all about Mary Maloney and how she feels and what we learn about her life. We become emotionally involved with her. We know how and why she killed her husband and this gives us a link with her. We are personally involved with this woman and then her actions.
We react to the story because we feel strongly about why Mary killed her husband and we feel sorry for her. We are glad when she kills her husband, we are glad that she is showing that she has some backbone and spirit in her. When the police come at the end we hope that they don’t find out it was Mary, and are relieved when they don’t. I know that at the end, though, I was a little confused, because the line, ‘And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle’, gives a big twist to the ending of the story. It makes the reader wonder if Mary is really as ‘good’ as we thought she was?
Because we became personally involved with her at the beginning, did that cloud our judgement of her, like it did with the policemen who knew her and her husband? It makes you ask questions, for example, perhaps Mary had already known about the affair and had planned it? Or maybe she laughed because she is glad her husband is dead and she’s free? Then you think of all the reasons why this couldn’t be true, but there is still some doubt in your mind. You also wonder what is going to happen next – does she get away with it? What does she do next? This is a completely different ending to that of ‘The Speckled Band’. In this story, all the loose ends are tied up and explanations are given.
You find out what happens to the murderer, Dr. Roylott and your mind is at ease. It’s almost like the case is closed and filed away in your mind. So in conclusion, I feel that I identify more with Mary Maloney than I do with Sherlock Holmes, for several reasons. I think that Mary is an easily likeable character, because she is basically good and sweet. Although she is a bit weak and dependant at the beginning, you are assured that she is not completely like this when she murders her husband!
I can also identify with Sherlock Holmes, but only up to a certain point. Although he is a likeable and intelligent person, I feel that you cannot get completely close to a character if the writer did not mean you to, and I think this is the case with Sherlock Holmes. If you knew all about Sherlock Holmes and his intimate past, I think that the character wouldn’t work. The main part of his charm and personality is that there is always an air of mystery, and you never know what he has done in the past. Nor, if you really knew and understood the character, would you want to, I think. I think that both ‘The Speckled Band’ and ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ are brilliant detective stories, and their foundations are the strong and endearing characters that are at the heart of the story.