A Critical Evaluation of 'Lamb to the Slaughter' by Roald Dahl

Essay by dodHigh School, 10th grade March 2006

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'Lamb to the Slaughter' is a intriguing murder story set in the 1950's America written by the well renowned children's author Roald Dahl. The plot is threaded with irony, which injects it with dark humour. In this critical evaluation I will determine whether Mary Maloney premeditated the murder of her husband or if it was a spur of the moment act or 'crime of passion'.

The short story is set in America and this is clear due to words such as 'precinct', 'closet' and 'Idaho potatoes'. The story opens by introducing Mary Maloney, wife of Senior Detective Patrick Maloney who is waiting for her husband to arrive home from work. When he arrives he is acting with strangely. He has a couple of whiskies - for 'dutch courage' and then tells Mary some bad news. We can assume he is leaving her or getting a divorce as it doesn't tell us clearly.

Mary is distraught but offers to make him supper all the same. When she goes down to the basement to the freezer she picks up the first thing that she lays her hands on, a leg of lamb. Mary then makes her way up from the basement, walks up behind Patrick and strikes on the back of the head. As the frozen lamb makes contact he sways then falls to the ground like a dead weight.

Following this Mary puts the lamb in the oven and climbs the stairs. She puts some make-up on then leaves to go to the grocers. Mary buys things for supper then goes home. This is used as her alibi. When Mary 'discovers' the body she burst into tears and calls the police. The police subsequently arrive, confirm the death and begin a fruitless search for a murder weapon. They briefly...