Literature Studies: “Lamb to The Slaughter” by Roald Dahl Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Mar 22nd, 2020

Patrick is a detective who punctually arrives home to his wife. She always offers him a cold drink and allows him to take it peacefully. However, on this fateful day, the unusual happened and Patrick presumably told Mary, his wife, they were going to part ways. The series of events following this announcement led to Patrick’s death and an investigation into his death. This paper looks into Mary Maloney’s nature and her controlling characteristic as narrated by Dahl.

Dahl begins the story by introducing a wife, Mary Maloney, who is in a warm room waiting for her husband (Dahl). From the onset, Mary is depicted as a dedicated and dutiful wife with much love for her spouse. Despite signs pointing to anxiety, her occasional glances at the watch, she is calm.

Mary also comes across as keen to detail, she knows exactly when her husband comes home every day. Mary is composed, loving, and meticulous. However, in all her character traits, her attention to detail appears to contribute a significant share to her overall character.

The opening paragraphs clearly inform the reader that Mrs. Maloney is observant. She knows precisely what time her husband arrives since she begins to listen for signs of Patrick’s arrival. “When the clock said ten minutes to five … a few moments later, punctually as always…” (Dahl). She is rewarded by the sound of car tires outside the house. She can also tell that the second drink Patrick made for himself is stronger by just looking at it.

Her meticulous nature is called upon when she realizes that she has killed Patrick. Mary knows that if found at the crime scene without an alibi, she would end up as the prime suspect. A possibility of being charged for murder does not frighten her. Mary’s only fear is for the unborn child she is carrying (Dahl). To protect her soon to be born baby:

“She carried the meat into the kitchen, put it into a pan, turned on the oven… she washed her hands, ran upstairs, sat down in front of the mirror, fixed her makeup, and tried to smile … That was better. Both the smile and the voice sounded better now. She practiced them several times more” (Dahl).

Heading to the grocery, she bought what she needed. Her keen eye for detail plays out above and further highlighted by her knowledge of Patrick’s favorite dessert.

After the police arrived and began a thorough investigation, they realized that Mr. Maloney died from a blow to his back. As Mary cries in the house, Dahl gives the reader a hint to her diabolical plan. By cooking the “murder weapon”, she has partially destroyed any evidence linking her to Patrick’s death. However, it is not destroyed completely yet.

First, she offers the detectives a drink, possibly alcoholic and bids her time. Jack reminds her of the oven that is still running. She feigned surprise and with a teary face gently offers the officers to eat the murder weapon. Her mission to protect her unborn child appears accomplished when the police decide to finish the lamb. The story ends with Mary laughing at the remark by a police officer that the murder weapon was probably right under their noses.

Works Cited

Dahl, Roald. “Lamb to The Slaughter.” Harper’s Magazine. September 1953. Print.

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