The Irony of “Lamb to the Slaughter”
The phrase “lamb to the slaughter’’ is used to describe an innocent or naive person being led into danger or failure. Roald Dahl’s use of this expression is effective for two reasons. First, it reminds the reader that the slaughter is a real killing. Second, throughout the story the reader will find out that the “lamb” is not the victim of the slaughter, but it is what is used in the slaughter. The double meaning to the title, “Lamb to the Slaughter,” provides readers with the opportunity to look for a deeper meaning in the story. When the reader is first introduced to Mary Maloney, it is automatically assumed that she will be the “lamb” in the story. Dahl makes the reader think this by saying that Mary Maloney waits hand and foot for her husband, Patrick Maloney. “She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel- almost as a sunbather feels the sun- that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together” (Dahl 454). As the reader progressively gets through the story, they learn many new things about Mary Maloney as a character. The readers soon find out that Mary is not the lamb, but the slaughterer. After Patrick Maloney tells Mary that he is going to leave her, she still insisted on making him dinner. This is portrayed as a last resort for Mary to remain in his life, to remain in control of him. When he realizes that Mary is still trying to make him dinner, he lashes out on her. “For God’s sake…don’t make supper for me. I’m going out” (Dahl 457) When she is denied, Mary loses control and hits her husband over the head with the meal that he rejected. It seems like the reason why Mary killed her husband was because she lost control over him. This is ironic because when introduced, Mary is portrayed as a typical housewife, doing the cooking and cleaning and anything to make her husband happy. In this scenario, it does not seem like the wife would have any control whatsoever. Mary had...
Cited: Dahl, Roald. Lamb to the Slaughter: And Other Stories. London: Penguin, 1995.
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