Lamb to the Slaughter Summary

12 December 2016

Dahl portrays Mary Maloney as a typical ‘50’s housewife (although that very well may not be the era in which this short story was written); she waits for her husband with his drink prepared, and periodically glances at the clock for his arrival. Little did this six month pregnant wife know, her beloved spouse would be leaving her… So as Patrick Maloney walked through the door she did as any unsuspecting wife would do, and lie her sewing aside and greet him with a kiss, takes his coat and makes his drink.

The couple sit for a while silently as Mary accepts that her husband prefers to rest in silence while he has his drink after a long day at work. Shortly after he declares that he has to tell her something, and that he hopes she will not blame him too much. At this point in the story, Dahl does not explain what it is that Patrick Maloney tells his then wife, but makes it very clear in his next paragraph that Patrick Maloney was leaving Mary. Mary then goes into shock and tries to persuade herself that she imagined the entire ordeal.

Lamb to the Slaughter Summary Essay Example

She goes to retrieve something from the basement freezer and prepare dinner. She returns with a frozen leg of lamb to find Patrick standing by a window with his back to her, he hears her coming and tells her that she shouldn’t make dinner as he has decided to eat out. Dahl offers no lead up for what occurs next, Mary walks up to him and brings the leg of lamb down on Mr. Maloney “ as hard as she could” on the back of his head. Patrick falls dead and Mary’s mind cleared instantaneously.

She walked into her kitchen and placed the leg of lamb in the oven to cook. She hurried off to the supermarket, telling Sam, the grocer that she needed some vegetables to go along with a nice leg of lamb. She carries on a normal conversation with him and they decide that she will give Patrick cheesecake for afterwards. On her way back home she pretends that all is fine, and believes that she will find her husband waiting for dinner. As she enters the house, she calls his name, and places down her groceries.

Feigning surprise she finds Patrick lying on the floor, dead. The shock and pain that she feels is genuine as she remembers the love she felt for her husband. Mary calls the police station at which Patrick worked to report his death. She told the officers that she went to the supermarket during the time of her husband’s death, and this was confirmed by Sam, the grocer. The focus of the investigation was to find the murder weapon, and the detective told Mary that he had been struck by a “heavy blunt instrument”.

Meanwhile, the lamb that Mary had placed in the oven was ready and she persuaded the officers to have dinner, as it is the least she could do for the men that are “helping to catch the man who killed him” him, meaning her husband. What happens next is the perfect example of dramatic irony. When the policemen are eating the leg of lamb and discussing where the weapon may be, one says that the murder weapon is “Probably right under our very noses. ” This is dramatic irony because the weapon used to kill Mr. Maloney really is right under their very noses.

Yet they just keep eating suspecting the leg of lamb could never be the weapon used to kill Patrick Maloney, while Mary Maloney was quietly giggling in the other room. In the beginning of the short story, Dahl describes Mary Maloney as a very weak minded individual that lived solely to take care of her husband, and very soon after, Mary turns into a strong, resourceful and intelligent woman that skillfully got away with the murder of her husband, two polar opposites. Although Mary was deceived, it is very difficult to determine if the murder of her husband is justified or not under the circumstances.

Many will argue that Mary Maloney is a vicious murderer and deserves to be put in jail, but others will say that she had experienced psychological trauma, and her reaction to the news of her husband leaving her made her mentally unfit to take responsibility for her actions following. In conclusion, people do not always get what they deserve. Personally I feel that in this case, Patrick Maloney did in deed get what he deserved, considering the fact that he had just informed his highly hormonal pregnant wife he would be leaving her, without any given reason disclosed to the reader.

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