A woman comes home only to find her husband in bed with another woman. She grabs the closest blunt object and brutally attacks both her husband and his lover, killing them both. This is a crime of passion. According to the Legal Information Institute, a Crime of Passion is classified as “A crime committed while in the throes of passion, with no opportunity to reflect on what is happening and what the person is about to do. “(source) What Mary Maloney did was not murder but only a crime of passion.
The expected result was not to kill her husband but only to keep him and not lose him to the other woman. This is the natural instinct of a woman who was under the impression that she was in a happy marriage that was soon to be welcoming a new baby. In both text and film adaptation, love was the source of the destructive behavior. She, being a small and pregnant woman, in what she thought was a loving and happy relationship, would have never been plotting the death of her husband. She greets him with a “Hello Love. ” and kiss. These are not the actions of a cold blooded murderer.
When the reader is first exposed to Mary, they are given the visual of a happy wife patiently waiting for the nightly return of her husband. The text says “She merely wanted to satisfy herself that each minute that went by made it nearer the time when he would come home. “( Lamb to the Slaughter) This gives the representation that this was a daily occurrence. She waits and he returns after a hard day of work. Patrick, the husband, comes home and the impression that is given right away is that he is cold and uncaring. There are no pleasantries with his hello or even a fleck of love is his demeanor.
In the film adaptation, Patrick’s actions are almost exactly the same. The text continues with Mary trying to cater to his needs and him repeatedly shooting her down with short responses. He then becomes very commanding and tells her to sit down. Patrick then proceeds to tell Mary something that is not one hundred percent clear to the reader but is interpreted as he is leaving Mary and the unborn child. This major plot twist is depicted differently in the film. Mary is almost blind sided with the news she will be a single mother immediately.
Patrick also tells her that he loves the new woman and wants to marry her. This news would cause a normal person to be devastated, let alone a heavily pregnant woman that was under the impression she was in a happy marriage. It is the viewer and readers impression that at this moment Mary snapped. It was like her psyche was trying to protect her from the information she was absorbing. “Her first instinct was not to believe any of it. She thought that perhaps she’d imagined the whole thing. “(lamb to the slaughter) Her mind was trying to protect her from the truth.
The mind is a curious beast. It can imagine and visualize things that never happened or block out traumatic events to protect the individual. In the text we see this with the above quote. Her first instinct is to not even acknowledge what has happened. In the film, basically the same thing happens. The news is broken to her and all she can say is that she will fix Patrick some supper. This small woman proceeds to go and retrieve a large leg of lamb from their freezer. This is the defining moment. She takes the hunk of meat and with all of her might swings it.
Hitting her husband on the back of the head killing him instantly. She did not know she was going to kill him. All she wanted was for him to stay. Patrick kept repeating that he was going out and that he did not want dinner. To Mary as soon as he walked out that door it was the end. She could not let this happen. It was almost as if her reaction was involuntary. In the adaptation the viewer could see that the more he threatened to leave the more flustered she became. This was the same for the text, as the reader, with every passing word could tell no go was coming from the news.
Mary Maloney’s character takes on two separate identities after she killed her husband in the text and then in the film. In the text, it reads since she is the wife of a detective she acts quickly. There is almost no time lost. She runs upstairs fixes herself up and tries to plaster on a smile as if nothing ever happened. While in the film she waits and ponders what has happened. Even sitting down to have a snack. Theses are very different things to have done. One shows that she is calculating and there is no regret and the other shows that she has become pensive, thinking about the brutality she has just committed.
Both however, are quite odd reactions, neither showing that she is devastated at the loss. Mary also has entered into a state of psychosis in the text as well. She practices talking to the local shoppe keep, making sure that her voice and smile match to appear that nothing is wrong. Barbara Bel Geddes does not portray her as such the calculating being in the film. In both however, she makes the trip to the grocery pretending to have run out for some extra materials for the supper she is preparing. This all while her husband lay dead on the floor.
At this point in time the reader and viewer could get the impression that she is indifferent about her murderess behavior. She has merely accepted what she has done and is now covering her tracks. In her mind she has stopped Patrick from leaving her. Basically, this is an accurate representation of the “if I can’t have him, no one can. ” mentality. In the text she comes home and is genuinely in shock. The reality of her actions has hit her. She is there lying over his body sobbing, “no acting was necessary. ” (lamb to the slaughter) The film however diverges and this is where Ms.
Geddes beings to play up the whole charade of the situation. She comes in and throws her groceries on the floor and proceeds to go around the room and stage a fight around Patricks dead body to throw the cops off. Mary in the text is one that has begun to felt remorse for her actions. While the film Mary has begun to lay out each and every move to cover her tracks. What she does with the weapon whoever is utterly genius regardless of the emotional state. She had stuck the murder weapon in the stove in both cases before leaving so it would seem she was in the middle of something and had just stepped out.
After sobbing on the phone to the police and their arrival, they questioned her and were there for quite a long while. Like any good housewife she offers them food. They all hesitated at first but soon enough the leg of lamb was being devoured. The murder weapon was consumed by the very people that were looking for it. What Mary does next could be taken one of two ways. As the police officers are talking about finding the weapon, she begins to laugh. Not a cute giggle but a laughter that puts chills down someone’s spine. At this point the reader is basically in shock from all the events that have occurred in such a few pages.
The viewer of the film is a little less taken aback as the events were a little less grandiose and chilling. Mary’s laughter could be taken as one, she has just gotten away with the murder or her husband and the murder weapon was consumed. Or two, she has actually snapped, her actions have finally resonated in her brain and the fact that she has killed her husband is too much and she is no longer all there. Both being valid, in the text it is easier to see the first option but in the movie adaptation it is very likely that the second option is the case based on Barbara Bel Geddes acting choices.