In literature, an archetype is a literary technique that uses a character’s distinctive and recognizable attributes or traits to create a new character. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung used the word “archetype” to describe what he considered an element of the collective human memory of universal experiences. It is common in literary circles to refer to people (and occasionally imagery or topics) symbolically representing universal meanings and authentic human experiences as archetypes (Batista et al. 442). The Hero, for example, is a famous literary character seen in works of fiction. Several attributes define a hero, including bravery, persistence, sacrifice, and the ability to overcome adversity. When it comes to archetypal characters like superheroes, there are many various ways they might be depicted in literature.
“Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl is a disturbing short tale on underestimating individuals who seem to be vulnerable and the dangers of assuming they are innocent. Underestimation is a prevalent theme throughout the narrative “Lamb to the Slaughter.” The first example occurs when Patrick gets home and informs Mary that he is leaving her. He’s aware that she’s expecting, but all he says is that he’ll give her money to help her care for the kid while she’s going through the divorce process. He eventually yells at her, “Try and stop me!” as she tells him he can’t go. Using a frozen leg of lamb, Mary kills him with a single strike.
Patrick being a detective, people don’t even consider Mary a suspect when his colleagues come to investigate the incident, even though statistics indicate that spouses are one of the most common culprits in murder cases. At this point, the hungry police officers aren’t even thinking of the leg of lamb as a weapon, even though it is the right size and texture for a weapon (when frozen).
Mary Maloney, a character from Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter, epitomizes the archetype of an insane person. “Alright, she said to herself.” It’s a typical lunatic’s thought process to say, “So I’ve murdered him.” A feeling of guilt over her actions or the fact that she murdered her spouse didn’t come to her at first. Upon realizing she had just committed murder, she set out to protect herself in whatever way she could think about. She has no remorse whatsoever for her conduct. She may have done so out of concern for her unborn kid. “However, on the other hand, what about the child?” disproves this notion.” She never gave a second thought to the child’s safety until she had thoroughly assessed her own (Green et al. 100). The youngster would ordinarily be given first consideration in a circumstance like this. In other words, if her head was as clear as she claims, this should have been the first thought that sprang into her head.
Another archetype portrayed by Mary Malone is the fall, which is a descent from a higher to a lower state of being involved in heresy or loss of innocence and bliss. Mary Malone is someone who partakes in this “fall” by being a caring and loving spouse at the start of the novel to being a cold killer and murdering her husband Patrick (Lang et al. 73). As the pregnant widow whose husband was killed, Mary can construct the persona of the impoverished, deceitful woman. She was able to get the cops to feel sorry for her, make her something to sip on, then have them devour the leg of lamb she’s left in the oven. What about eating the lamb baking in the range? “, She said. A conviction for the crime would mean going to prison for Mary, who is aware of the consequences. The police officers ate all the evidence because of her manipulative nature and fast thinking to avoid being prosecuted for this crime.
Furthermore, ice, an archetypal metaphor that depicts death and breathlessness, is represented by Mary Malone in this work. It was Dahl’s way of portraying Mary Malone as an ice symbol in the narrative, making her responsible for someone else’s death (her husband in this case). In this scene, Mary murders her husband Patrick with a frozen lamb leg and does not seem empathetic, therefore symbolizing the image of gloom. In addition, Mary Malone has a wilderness or forest archetype, which is a feature that resembles a safe refuge, shelter, mystery, or even evil (Stambaugh et al. 183). By making Mary a mystery after the novel and leading the police to assume that she had nothing to do with her husband’s death, Roald Dahl displays Mary’s archetype wilderness. Dahl further highlights this pattern by transforming Mary from a kind and caring wife into a villain who murders her husband.
In conclusion, archetypes serve as a literary method for depicting people with repeating characteristics and attributes that transcend time and society (Batista et al. 442). Readers benefit from this because archetypes establish familiar characterization patterns in literary works. The reader may predict an archetypal character’s function and purpose when they can recognize that figure. In this way, the reader is not just expecting but also engaged.
Batista, Luciano, et al. “In search of a circular supply chain archetype–a content-analysis-based literature review.” Production Planning & Control 29.6 (2018): 438-451.
Green, Melanie C., Kaitlin Fitzgerald, and Melissa M. Moore. “Archetypes and narrative processes.” Psychological Inquiry 30.2 (2019): 99-102.
Lang, Bodo, et al. “Prosumers in times of crisis: definition, archetypes and implications.” Journal of Service Management (2020).
Stambaugh, Tamra, et al. “Writing Narratives With Archetypes.” Encounters With Archetypes. Routledge, 2021. 179-190.