‘Captain Murderer’ is a farcical fairytale-like story that is packed full of predictable out comes and unreal characters.
‘Lamb to the slaughter’ is true to life, which is the reason why they are so different. It has a very real plot and believable realistic characters.
‘Lamb to the slaughter’ is a post war piece written shortly after the Second World War, whereas ‘Captain Murderer’ is a 19th century piece. This time space is noticeable with the difference in language.
“…but had no suspicion of the consanguinity” this language wouldn’t fit into a piece made in the 20th century. Whereas “The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn” is a more suited piece of text that would appear to fit the 20th century.
‘Captain Murderer’ is strung together clichï¿½ and complex sentences, with unusual vocabulary. “… A coach and twelve, and all his horses were milk white”. This is exactly a phrase that anyone would expect to see within a fairytale.
“Lamb to the “slaughter” is built on a foundation of ‘simple’ everyday language.
The structure of each piece is very different. ‘Captain Murderer’ has no surprises to what the story holds. The title gives the plot away. ‘Captain implies that there is a pirate within the story. Centuries ago Pirates were seen as outlaws full of anger, violence, and evil. ‘Murderer’ implies that there is Murder within the story, so ‘Captain Murderer’ suggests that the character is a Murderous Pirate.
Dahl’s title is much more deceitful to the reader. Although we do not get an immediate suggestion of Evilness in the title like ‘Captain Murderer’, we do however get the idea that someone is going to die.
A lamb religiously is a symbol of innocence, and a lamb going to the slaughter suggests that the lamb is unaware of its fate.
In ‘Captain Murderer’ Dickens describes his characters as we would expect to hear them from a fairytale. “One was fair and the other dark”. In almost every fairytale the good person is illustrated as a light or fair person and the evil one as a dark person. Again this is religiously symbolic as in the biblical stories the light is seen to be good and the darkness to be evil. Also, the names of the characters are what to expect from a fairytale. ‘Captain Murderer’ is practically shouting Bloody Murder at you, and immediately gives away the nature of this character, yet the brides do not see this ‘warning’ and marry him anyway.
The filing of Captain Murderer’s teeth adds to the surreal properties the story holds. “Saw him having his teeth filed sharp”. This is nothing more than a quote that could only be from nothing but a fairytale. It would be very unusual to hear of a man or woman who has had their teeth sharpened to a point in real life.
The fairytale qualities of ‘Captain Murderer’ are portrayed throughout the story. Firstly, there is a lot of repetition within the piece. “Cutting her head off, and chopped her in pieces, and peppered her, and salted her, and put her in the pie, and sent it to the bakers, and ate it all, and picked the bones”. This is repeated for every victim Captain Murderer kills, again another fairytale quality the story holds. Another well known fairy tale that uses repetition is “The 3 little pigs”. “I’ll huff; I’ll puff and ill blow your house down”.
The punishment of the evil character in ‘Captain Murderer’ is a little over the top. For instance, Captain Murderer was not simply killed or executed, but was poisoned with ingredients “distilled from toad’s eyes and spiders’ knees”. The ingredients are quite a farce. The only Piece I can think of that uses similar ingredients is Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where similar ingredients are used to cast a spell.
In my opinion the reader engages with the story because although somewhat silly the story may be, it appears intriguing leaving the reader wanting to finish it and find out what happens at the end.
Dahl sets out to intrigue his audience readers, and then surprise them by twisting the story. He does this by setting the scene up as Mary Maloney being the victim- the soon to be “deserted” housewife. “And he told her…” “So there it is he added, and I know its kind of a bad time to be telling you, but there simply wasn’t any other way.”
Although Dahl doesn’t leave any clues, we get the idea that Patrick Maloney is leaving his wife for what ever reason, perhaps adultery.
Soon after, Mary Maloney changes her state from Madonna to murderer in almost no time at all. “She swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air, and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his head.” She systematically turns from innocent to a giggling killer. “Mary Maloney began to giggle”. The frightening thing about this story is the rate in which Mary Maloney turns from good to evil. Or perhaps she was always evil. In just a few paragraphs she turns from the perfect housewife to the perfect killer.
Looking back over ‘Lamb to the slaughter’ I can understand why Patrick wanted to leave, as her love was too obsessive and suffocating.
The somewhat contrasting storylines are simply because of the Era in which they were created.
‘Captain Murderer’ was made in the 19th century, but with echoes of an even earlier tradition. It has a strong Moral Ending which would be expected of the time. However ‘Lamb to the slaughter’ is a modern piece, its modern audience accepts a more realistic ending it is gentler with less graphic horror “Mary Maloney began to giggle”
The two stories do deal with murder but in radically different ways. ‘Lamb to the slaughter’ uses a very effective storyline “twist”, where the innocent turns out to be evil.
‘Captain Murderer’ uses the traditional villain stereo type, portraying “in your face” evil features of Captain Murderer’s character such as his teeth, not to mention his name.