Explain carefully the significance of the title, “Lamb.”
The word “lamb” has a number of meanings and associations; young sheep; its meat; innocent child; helpless person. Excluding meat, Mac Laverty explores all these associations of the word. Many ideas in the novel are related to the title, but the author is a lot more subtle in approach at conveying some of these than others.
The first obvious reason is that the two main characters are both called Lamb – Michael Lamb and Owen. We find that Owen means lamb in Gaelic when Brother Sebastian had told him that their stars were crossed. “Star-crossed” means destined by fate to bad luck and misfortune. This proves to be true for Owen.
Not only are Michael and Owen both called Lamb, but they can also both be described by the word, having a difference emphasise on it’s meaning in each incident. As you read through the novel, it becomes more and more apparent that Michael is a helpless man. Mac Laverty portrays Michael as a wholly convincing picture of a good man. But Michael is also slightly stupid and very naïve. Whilst he is aware of the randomness by which any of us is given a stable background rather than Owen’s nightmare one, he is totally lost in the world of bureaucracy and is not at all street-wise. This is evident throughout the novel, like when he falls victim to the London card-sharpers, and his slowness to recognise the true character of Haddock. Owen is an innocent child. He is seen as “A loner walking the perimeter wire.” He has been mistreated by family which is probably why he compares the Home to a prison.
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The novel deals heavily with Christianity, which is expected as Mac Laverty is Irish. This conjures up new ideas of the word “lamb”. In Christianity, the bible talks of Jesus as being “the holy lamb.” Before Jesus came to live on earth, the bible tells us that people had to make sacrifices of animals (like lambs), in order to be cleansed and forgiven of their sins. When Jesus died on the cross, it was seen as him being the ultimate sacrifice, the holy lamb of God. God, the father, was sacrificing his own son, Jesus. Considering religion plays a key role in the novel, it seems perfectly legitimate to relate this conception of lamb to its events. Michael is seen as the father, which is the role he adopts as the novel develops, and he is sacrificing his son, Owen.
It is interesting that Brother Benedict mentions Abraham in chapter two. Abraham was the founder of the Hebrew (Israeli) people. To test his faith, Jehovah (God) commanded him to sacrifice his own son, Isaac. However, as he was about to kill Isaac, God commanded him to stop, as He found his faith to be very strong. The interesting point here, when tying it in with the novel, is that Michael lost his faith and rejected Christianity. Whether as a result of this or not, the two sacrifices become very different, when Michael goes ahead and does actually kill Owen. The idea of Abraham also arises when Michael calls himself Mr Abraham for a fake name. So here we are presented with three examples of a father son relationship, where the father sacrifices the son or “the lamb.”
Having read the novel and presented the above information, I conclude that the title is most relevant and very significant.