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Lamb to the Slaughter

Lamb to the slaughter

By ThinkingtimessPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

"Lamb to the Slaughter" is a short story by Roald Dahl, first published in 1953. The story follows the life of Mary Maloney, a devoted wife who is six months pregnant, and her husband, Patrick Maloney, a police detective. One evening, Patrick returns home from work and informs Mary that he wants a divorce. In shock and disbelief, Mary reacts impulsively and kills Patrick with a frozen leg of lamb. She then proceeds to cover up the murder and dispose of the weapon, successfully evading suspicion from the police investigation.

The story is told in a third-person limited point of view, focusing on Mary's thoughts and feelings throughout the events that unfold. The title, "Lamb to the Slaughter," is a reference to the biblical phrase "like a lamb to the slaughter," which means to be unaware of impending danger. In this case, Patrick is the "lamb," as he is unsuspecting of the danger that Mary poses to him.

The story begins with a description of Mary's home, which is presented as a peaceful and idyllic place. Mary is described as a loving and devoted wife who eagerly anticipates her husband's return home from work. However, when Patrick arrives, he appears distant and aloof, and when Mary tries to engage him in conversation, he tells her that he wants a divorce.

Mary's initial reaction is shock and disbelief. She cannot comprehend why her husband would want to leave her, especially since she is six months pregnant. She tries to persuade him to change his mind, but he remains resolute in his decision. As the reality of the situation sinks in, Mary's emotions turn from confusion to anger.

At this point, the story takes a dramatic turn. Mary suddenly picks up a frozen leg of lamb from the kitchen and hits Patrick over the head with it. He falls to the ground, dead. Mary is initially horrified by what she has done, but she quickly realizes that she must cover up the murder to avoid being caught.

She thinks quickly and decides to cook the leg of lamb that she used as the murder weapon, believing that the evidence will be destroyed in the process. She then leaves the house and goes to the grocery store to create an alibi, acting as though nothing has happened.

When she returns home, she calls the police and reports the murder, claiming that she had been out of the house when it happened. The police arrive and begin their investigation, but they are unable to find any evidence of the murder weapon or a motive for the crime. Mary appears to be innocent, and the police leave without suspecting her.

The story ends with Mary calmly sitting in her living room, sipping a glass of whiskey, and smiling to herself, as if she is pleased with how cleverly she has evaded suspicion. The final line of the story is "And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle."

The story can be interpreted in several ways. On one level, it can be seen as a black comedy or a satire of crime fiction. The plot is absurd and the characters are exaggerated, making the story both entertaining and darkly humorous.

On another level, the story can be read as a commentary on gender roles and power dynamics in relationships. Mary is a devoted and submissive wife who has no identity outside of her husband. When he leaves her, she is left feeling lost and powerless. However, when she commits the murder, she suddenly gains a sense of agency and control over her life.

The story can also be seen as a critique of the justice system and the way it often fails to deliver justice. The police officers are depicted as bumbling and incompetent, unable to solve the crime despite their best efforts.

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