Summary of Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

Introduction:

Roald Dahl’s short story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ actually has a long and distinguished history in biblical and English literature, it’s generally used to describe a situation into which a person blindly enters without any knowledge of the inherent danger. Dahl had been making headway as a professional writer with a spate of tales which, like “Lamb to the Slaughter,” reflect aspects of human perversity, cruelty, and violence.The same could be said for certain folks in Roald Dahl’s short story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter.’ The story’s title also works as a dark double entente, a word or phrase used in a way that conveys two meanings, of its eventual outcome.The laconic suddenness of the events, as Dahl tells them, creates an experience of shock for the reader, an effect which no doubt accounts for the popularity of this frequently anthologized and reprinted story.

Summary of Lamb to the Slaughter:

This story is about Mary Maloney and her husband Patrick who was a detective. It seems that she loved her husband dearly. But shockingly she killed him when he told her that he was going to leave her. As she had lived with a detective husband, she knew the ways to prove herself innocent from the charge of murdering him. She went to a grocery shop to buy some edibles and behaved as if nothing had happened. She told the grocer, Mr. Sam that she was buying those edibles for her husband. After coming home, she rang up the police and the detectives and informed them about the murder of her husband, Patrick. Investigations went on, but in vain. Nobody could raise a finger of suspicion on Mary Maloney as there was no evidence against her. Thus, a murderer moves freely in the society. It reflects the changes and colours of human nature. It is quite unpredictable. Human feelings such as love, faith, affection and loyalty can be blown away with any fit of a cruel wind. They are not deep rooted in human nature and can be uprooted to enact any heinous crime. We lie to ourselves when we say that we love someone from the core of our heart. Heart is only a biological organ and has nothing to do with our feelings. It is a bitter truth that we love ourselves the most. Our feelings change with circumstances. We love others as long as we receive reciprocation from the other side. Otherwise everything is finished. As in the story Mary who loved a lot her husband and always thought and waited for him with anxiety, wasted no time to kill him cruelly. Even after committing the dreadful crime, she had no regrets and worked out a plan to set herself free from any charges.Every coin has two sides. Same here with the story also though the plot of the story is strong. It sometimes loses the grip on the reader. The writer elaborates Mary Maloney’s love and anxiety for her husband, Patrick a lot. But when Patrick told Mary that he was going to leave her forever, the writer had failed to show the struggle of thoughts in Mary’s mind. Instead of giving any resistance or reaction, she went in the kitchen to prepare the supper. It is also not very clear whether Patrick also loved Mary as deeply as she did. Apart from this, the writer did not mention clearly why Patrick wanted to leave Mary even when she was pregnant.

Characters in Lamb to the Slaughter:

Mary Maloney- The story’s protagonist, Mary Maloney is the wife of Patrick Maloney, a detective. A happy and devoted housewife who is six months pregnant with her first child, Mary spends much of her time caring for and thinking about her husband while attending to domestic tasks such as cooking and sewing. After Patrick reveals that he is leaving her, however, Mary suddenly kills him with a frozen leg of lamb. She then cunningly covers up the murder, using her role as an “innocent,” supposedly-foolish housewife to trick the investigators.


Patrick Maloney- Police detective who cares more about his work than his marriage. Despite Mary’s best attempts to make him comfortable and care for him, he does not reciprocate her efforts or feeling. He callously tells Mary that he has decided to abandon his marriage, and is then killed by Mary herself with a frozen leg of lamb. Though the narrator explicitly discusses Mary’s idolization of Patrick and his masculinity, Patrick’s name is not revealed until halfway through the story, after he has already died.

Theme of Lamb to the Slaughter:

It is a soul touching story reflecting the variations in human nature. It is awful that man is more dangerous than animals. He only loves himself and if his wishes and feelings are not reciprocated he can do any heinous crime and with no repentance.

Solved Questions from Lamb to the Slaughter:

1.What Influence Does Mary’s Pregnancy Have on the Story?

Early in the story, the reader discovers that Mary Maloney is pregnant. This understanding is important to the story on a number of levels. The most basic is that it helps the reader to understand just what it is that her husband is doing by leaving her. This makes the story more ambiguous in morality by making the reader associate with the woman more. In addition, it almost certainly helps keep her from being suspected. The motherly instinct of protection is invoked by this understanding as anyone can understand the instinct of a mother protecting her child and the fear of executions vital to making Mary a more positive character.

2.Why Does Mary Insist the Police Eat the Leg of Lamb?

Leg of Lamb Mary asks the detectives to eat the leg of lamb she had made for her husband, and even when they turn it down, she insists that they eat this. This insistence is important beyond simply the idea that it is the murder weapon. By having the detectives eat the lamb, they have destroyed the evidence which will make them look stupid even if they later understand. This will discourage them from thinking of it as a weapon. In addition, because she ensures they have seen the murder weapon rather than hiding it, she defies the expectations as most criminals hide the weapon.