Lamb to the Slaughter

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This short-story written by Roald Dahl is about a woman – Mary Maloney – who murders her husband with a leg of lamb. It’s really interesting to read, since it shows us, how a crucial decision in a situation like this can lead to spontaneous life altering decisions. This story also portrays how the idea of a so called ‘nuclear-family’ (the perfect family) can affect a person’s mind – the whole role-playing game between the husband and wife. This essay will interpret and discuss a characterisation of Mary and her husband Patrick, as well as a description of the setting, the title, and lastly, an attempt to put it into perspective to other crime-stories we’ve read. Good intro!

As a wife, Mary Maloney is extremely kind, devoted and thoughtful. She is also an expectant mother. Her main problem though is being obsessed by the importance of acquiring the ‘nuclear-family’. The nuclear-family is essential to this story; the whole family is really just a ‘dollhouse’, where nothing really is what it seems like. Everybody is acting to achieve certain social norms; this is literally being told by Patrick Maloney as well on page 115: “But there needn’t really be any fuss. It wouldn’t be very good for my job”. All that matters is the way other people see them as a family. Mary works as the stereotype of the 1960’ies, where it’s all about soothing the husband – making him feel comfortable at home to forward his career. In this story, Mary is being portrayed in a way that deteriorates the basic values of women; she is described almost as a servant. “She sets down her sewing… took his coat and hung it in the closet” – this quote tells us two things; one, that women stay at home the main part of the day, and two, she is ‘always there to serve’ (stereotype). Mary might also seem a bit psychotic/deranged in this story – besides murdering her husband and afterwards acting like nothing happened, the very intriguing and indeed noticeable ‘giggle’ at the end of the story (page 121...
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