Lamb to the Slaughter

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  • Topic: Domestic sheep, LaMB, Josie Ho
  • Pages : 2 (615 words )
  • Download(s) : 304
  • Published : April 27, 2013
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“The Irony Behind the Title of Dahl's ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’” ‘‘Lamb to the Slaughter’’ is representative of Dahl’s economical style and dry, dark sense of humor. Like all of his short fiction, the narrative in this story is driven by plot, not by character or mood. Readers find themselves dropped into the middle of the action with no knowledge of the background or history of the characters to establish tone or motive. Starting with the double meaning of its title, however, ‘‘Lamb to the Slaughter’’ offers readers a number of opportunities to explore the complexities and possibilities beneath the taut and matter-of-fact surface of the story. Alert and curious readers will find themselves opening narrative trap doors and rummaging through Mary’s psyche in search of reasons why an ordinary evening ended in murder. The expression ‘‘lamb to the slaughter’’ is used to describe an innocent or naive person being led into danger or failure. Unprepared political candidates, or woefully outmatched sports teams are often described as lambs being led to the slaughter. Dahl’s use of the expression is surprising and effective for two reasons. First, it reminds us that the slaughter that the lamb is led to is a real, not a metaphorical, killing. Second, in this story, readers discover later, the lamb is not the victim of the slaughter, but the instrument. When we first encounter meek Mary Maloney, bent over her sewing and awaiting her husband’s arrival, we think she will be the lamb. As it turns out, her husband Patrick is literally the lamb led to slaughter, Mary brings her little leg of lamb to the slaughter as weapon, and in the metaphorical sense of the expression, the investigating officers are lambs, that is, naive followers, led to the slaughter, first to the scene of the crime, and second to the dinner table to consume the evidence. When readers last see Mary Maloney she is giggling to herself at the unwitting joke one of the officers makes when he claims that the...
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