Lamb To the Slaughter – Critical Evaluation
“Lamb to the Slaughter” is a cleverly written short story by Roald Dahl. In this short story the reader is manipulated into feeling sympathy for the murderer by the author’s use of literacy techniques, such as setting and word choice. Dahl tells us of a story of a seemingly happily married couple called the Maloneys. The writer goes onto notify the reader of the main character, Mary Maloney, he describes her as a gently, warm, caring and loving person towards her husband, Patrick. When Patrick returns from work he informs her he is leaving her. Despite this, she attempts to go about her everyday chores, but when retrieving a leg of lamb for supper, she calmly kills him with a blow to the head from the leg of lamb. Thinking quickly, she goes to the local store to purchase vegetables in order to create an alibi for herself, and when she returns home, she calls the police. They come quickly, and they begin the search for the murder weapon, unaware that it is cooking right in front of them. Mary offers the officers the cooked lamb. As they discuss the location of the weapon Mary begins to giggle. In this story the murderer seems to face no consequences for her actions, Dahl does this to control the reader to create sympathy for Mary. We see Mary killing her husband without any thought, decision or delay. The author informs us she ‘simply walked up behind him’ and as she swung the murder weapon, the piece of lamb, at her husband ‘without any pause’. But by drawing readers into Mary psyche, Dahl demands that readers ask themselves some difficult moral questions. Seen as a crime of passion, an emotionally distraught woman’s single impulsive act that ends in tragedy, Mary’s crime does not seem to require punishment other than her own lifelong remorse and knowledge that she has caused her child to be fatherless. But a woman with passion and jealous rage could not have behaved with forethought and self-control that Mary...
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