Analysis of the Elements of Fiction in the Novels The Mark of Cain, Lamb to The Slaughter and The Tell-Tale Heart

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The Mark of Cain by Roxane Gay

The short story is about a young unnamed woman who is married to a man called Caleb, Caleb has an identical twin, Jacob. They both switch places for days. The woman knows about their actions but does not acknowledge the deception as she prefers Jacob's company. The pair shares a passionate intimacy that she does not share with her husband Caleb. Jacob has a girlfriend called Cassie, who is unaware of the distinction, and when out for dinner Jacob pretends to be Caleb and vice versa without Cassie realizing all throughout.

The woman gets beaten up by Caleb but Jacob comes in the house to apologise as he genuinely cares about her. One day, the woman decides to tell Jacob that she is pregnant. The story forwards to six months, where the woman and Caleb are in the hospital and during sonogram the doctor asks, “Do you hear that?” the room is silent except for identical flutters of two heartbeats.

Lamb to the slaughter by Roald Dahl

The story begins with a woman, Mary Maloney, eagerly waiting for her husband, a police officer to come home. After his arrival she prepares him a drink and he makes one strong one for himself. Despite her advanced pregnancy she offers to prepare dinner instead of dining out suspecting he is too tired. He makes his wife sit down and even though he explicitly never states it, he is planning to leave her. In a state of shock, Mary continues making dinner and comes across a leg of lamb and takes it upstairs and hits Patrick on the head, killing him instantly. Realizing how grave the crime was, she starts covering up. She puts the lamb in oven to cook, goes to a grocery store and comes back to “find” her husband dead and calls the police.

After a tiring research and investigation, she offers the cops lamb to eat and out of pity towards the pregnant lady they concede. While eating and discussing, they all are convinced that the murder weapon is “right under their nose.”

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The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The story starts with an unnamed murderer trying to prove his sanity after murdering an old man with a “vulture eye”. The murderer plans the murder for a really long time and hides the body by chopping it and hiding it under floorboards. After hiding the body, the murderer hears a knock at the door and greets the police in as if nothing has happened. On inquiry he tells them that the old man is not home, he even makes them sit in the room where he buried the body and offers them drinks. As they chat he starts hearing a low thumping sound and realizes it is the old man’s heartbeat, which gets louder and he thinks that the policemen are making fun of his agony, when he cannot take the sound anymore he confesses to the crime and informs the policemen where the parts have been hidden.

Elements of Fiction


The protagonists in the stories have numerous similarities and differences. The protagonists in MOC and LTS are females whereas the gender of the narrator in TTH is unknown. The characters have very different feelings for their co-characters. In MOC the woman is in love with her husband’s brother, in LTS Mary Maloney is shown to be in love with her husband but on hearing the separation news she kills him and in TTH, the narrator has a close relationship with the old man but kills him because of his “vulture eye”. The priorities of the characters come out to be very different, in LTS after killing her husband Mary understands the situation and covers up the crime as to not get arrested whereas in TTH, the narrator tells the third party about the murder in a way to prove his sanity.


There are a number of similarities in the plot but also a large number of differences. In LTS the plot unfolds with a loving wife who is eagerly waiting for a husband and looking forward to spending time with him, but on hearing shocking news, she goes ahead to kill him and not getting caught for it, whereas in TTH, the narrator kills the old man because he cannot bear the old man’s vulture eye but in the end confesses to his crime due to guilt.

MOC is more of a plain story about a woman whose husband keeps switching places with his twin brother(Jacob), she does not do anything as she prefers Jacob’s company, the story ends with her being pregnant with twins. All the stories have an interesting twist. LTS uses irony in the end (police officers say the murder weapon is right under their nose while eating the leg of the lamb) and a character saying to the woman in MOC, it must be like married to two husbands.


The timeline of the stories is not specified. TTH starts with narrator addressing an unknown third party. In the middle, the conversation between the old man and narrator is shown, and later it is in the old man’s house with the policemen.

The place of the story does not change throughout and the whole story takes place in one night, whereas in MOC, the place of the story changes throughout, from the woman talking to a third party, the story is in third person point of view, and also jumps six months forward, it takes place in different scenes from the woman’s home to a restaurant to a hospital. It always shows the transition in relationships.

LTS is set in Mary’s home except when she goes out to form alibis other than that the story takes place in a single night similar to TTH.

I personally enjoyed Lamb to the Slaughter as it is extremely intriguing and builds interest over the story, the character and plot development is really great as I saw different emotions of Mary Maloney which captures involvement in the story. The storyline is gripping as one is curious till the end, a whole package.

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