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Lamb To The Slaughter

A short story by Raold Dahl

Jessica Nauta

on 28 February 2014

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Transcript of Lamb To The Slaughter

Lamb To The Slaughter
A short story by Raold Dahl
Exposition: Mary Maloney is waiting at home for her husband to return from work.
Complicating Incident: When her husband Patrick arrives, he begins to act a bit strange and detached, which worries Mary.
Falling Action: Mary realizes she needs to act as if she was innocent; act naturally. She thinks fast and goes out to the grocery store to buy potatoes so it will look like she was just returning home to find her husband had been murdered, then places the lamb and potatoes in the oven. Mary calls the police who investigate the scene as she acts heartbroken and shocked. Then, she convinces the police to eat the lamb she had prepared for dinner (the murder weapon), as it was late and she had too much food, saying they were doing her a favor for eating it.
Mary Maloney
Is the protagonist. We see her change from being a stereotypical stay at home wife to becoming a more dynamic character through the actions she takes after being told that her husband wants a divorce. Because we see her thought process change throughout the story, Mrs. Maloney is a round, dynamic character.
Patrick Maloney
Is the antagonist. Police officer & husband to Mary. We do not know what he is thinking, making him a flat character.
The one who look for clues and end up eating the murder weapon for dinner. We don't know much about the detectives, making them flat and static characters.
Lamb To The Slaughter begins in the home of a pregnant housewife, Mary, awaiting the arrival of her husband, Patrick. When her husband comes home from work, they perform their regular activities, but she begins to realize something is a little off about her husband. He tells her something that he has been thinking about for a while. Although it does not directly say what the husband said to his wife, we can infer from the actions of the characters that he had told her that he wants a divorce. She is shocked by the news her husband delivers to her and pretends as if it never happened. Although her husband says he is not hungry, she begins to prepare him dinner. Almost without thinking she travels downstairs where she finds a frozen leg of lamb and carries it back upstairs. Patrick hears Mary coming back up, and rudely tells her he will be going out for dinner by himself. Without thinking, she walks up behind her husband and, out of frustration, swings the leg as hard as she can striking him in the back of the head. Realizing she had just murdered her husband, she begins to think of ways to prove herself innocent. She decided to go to the grocery store to buy potatoes and acted as if nothing had happened. Upon arriving home, she placed the lamb and potatoes into the oven, then called the police to report the murder of her husband. When the police arrive, they begin to ask her questions about how the death of her husband occurred. She tells them she has no idea because she was at the grocery store getting vegetables for her dinner, and with that, they consider her innocent. They begin the investigation by searching for the murder weapon. After hours of searching with no results the police begin to pack up for the night. Mary, realizing that the lamb was done, offers it to the policemen. They hesitate, but accept. During their meal, as Mary sits in a nearby room, the policemen discuss the possible location of the murder weapon. One officer, finishing up his lamb, suggests it could very well be "right under our noses". Mary, overhearing, begins laughing.
Rising Action: Patrick says that he is divorcing Mary (although this isn't directly stated in the story, it is inferred from the characters actions) and she is horrified and in disbelief.
Crisis: Mary walks into the basement to retrieve what they will be eating for supper, which is a frozen lamb leg. Patrick hears her walking back and rudely tells her he will be going out for dinner by himself.
Climax: Out of frustration and shock, Mary suddenly swings the lamb leg at Patrick which ends up killing him.
Resolution: While eating the lamb, the policemen talk amongst each other about the murder weapon and it's possible whereabouts, saying it was "probably right under our noses". Mary overhears and starts giggling.
Man vs. Man: Patrick tells Mary he is going to leave her. This conflict ends when, out of frustration, she kills him. Then she must try to prove herself innocent from the police. This conflict ends when they eat the murder weapon, getting rid of all evidence against Mary.

Man vs. Self: Mrs. Maloney fighting to control her inner thoughts in order to keep her story in check. This conflict ends when she convinces herself that she was not the one to kill her husband.
Point of view
This story is told in third person limited. The story being told expresses the feeling of only one character in the story which is the wife. Throughout the story, the reader could understand what Mary Maloney was feeling. An example of this would be found on page 34 when the narrator states “watching him with puzzled horror”. From this, we know that she is confused and scared. Reading a story that is told in third person limited allows one to connect with the feelings of a specific character and understand what they are going through.
Lamb To The Slaughter took place in the Maloney household around 6:00pm. Mary Maloney was waiting at her house for her husband to come home so they could eat dinner, as per usual. The environment around her was quiet and peaceful since she was alone.
1. People tend to underestimate the power of those who seem to be weak.

Thinking about the title, “Lamb of the Slaughter”, a lamb seems like a weak animal since it is a baby sheep. The lamb in the story is the wife. She does everything for her husband, and he thanks her by divorcing her. She is the weakest one in the story. She is a weak, pathetic lamb. And (not literally) she is being slaughtered. But, she fights back. She kills her husband. The “lamb” of the story, Mary, overcomes her husband by killing him and with it; she kills her status as a lamb, as she is no longer weak.

2. Mad wife = Bad life

This husband’s life ended brutally because of betrayal. After all him and his wife have gone through, he ruined a future for both him, Mary, and their unborn child. The lesson being learned would be to not upset a woman because you will get the worst of it. The betrayal causing the death was completely the husband’s choice. The approach of divorce not being a big deal for the husband didn’t put the wife in a good place. Since the husband upset the wife, she ended up taking all her anger and frustration out on him and in the end, killed him.
Literary Devices
Irony: While the policemen are eating the lamb, they are unaware that they are really being fed the murder weapon by the murderer. The characters in the story do not know this except for the murderer herself, and since the reader knows what Mary is thinking, the reader knows too. This example specifically is showing dramatic irony when the reader knows something that the
characters in the story do not.

Foreshadowing: Readers are given hints by the author as to what is going to happen in the
future of the story. One of these hints was when the author tells us that Mary puts the lamb in
the oven. The leg of lamb could prove that she is guilty and she would have to face the consequences of killing her husband. By her putting the lamb in the oven, we can infer
that she might either try to feed the lamb to someone or eat it herself. Later on in the story, Mary tricks the police into eating the lamb, ensuring they couldn’t find the murder weapon.

Suspense: The author uses suspense to make the story more exciting. When the
husband seems to be acting odd and tells his wife he has something to tell her, this is an example of suspense because we don’t know what he is going to say and how she will react. Shortly after, the author increases the suspense when he tells us how the wife is shocked about the news she received from her husband, although we aren't exactly sure what he had told her.
A) Vocabulary
Anxiety: feeling worried.
Tranquil: calm, peaceful.
Punctually: on time, not late.
Blissful: extremely happy.
Amber: an orange yellow colour.
Bewildered: confused, not understanding.
Instinct: a strong feeling which guides someone.
Club: a heavy stick with a knob at one end, for hitting someone.
Peculiar: strange, unusual.
Frantic: mad, wild.
Grief: extreme sadness after someone dies or goes away.
Congealed: turned from liquid to solid.
On the premises: in the building.
Exasperated: annoyed, irritated.
Consoling: comforting someone who is sad, cheering them up.
Hospitality: being kind to visitors.
B) Short Answer
1) Who is telling the story? How does the narrator influence the telling of the story?
Lamb To The Slaughter is told in a third person limited point of view. This means that we only know the thoughts of one character in the story. In this story, we only know Mary's thoughts. This influences the story because you aren't sure what Mr. Maloney or the detectives were thinking, so it gave it a feel of suspense throughout.
2) What is the setting of the story?
This story takes place at the Maloney household. Although it does not say an exact time, we know it takes place around dinner time, so we can infer it is around 6:00pm.
3) Describe Mary Maloney at the beginning of the story.
At the beginning of the story, Mary Maloney seemed like a proper and happy wife. You can tell she is truly and completely in love, and would do just about anything for her husband. She seemed tranquil.
4) Why does Mary go ahead and make supper after all?
After killing her husband, Mary was in shock. She had to pretend that she wasn't his murderer to make herself calm down. She decided to go to the grocery store so she could convince herself it was just a normal day. When she got home, she put the lamb and potatoes in the oven just as she would on a normal day.
B) Short Answer
5) How has your opinion on Mary's character changed from how you felt at the beginning of the story?
As stated before, Mary seemed like a very pleasant and calm person towards the beginning of the story. As things progressed and when she killed her husband, she began to act very morbid and sinister, but still remained calm.
6) How do you think the author uses surprise in the story?
Towards the beginning of the story, all seems calm and normal. Then practically out of nowhere, a cruel murder occurs and changes the whole atmosphere in the story. Nobody really saw it coming.
7) What do you think it the meaning of the title?
"Lamb To The Slaughter". In real life, a lamb represents peace and innocence. It is not a viscous animal. Saying "lamb to the slaughter" is suggesting murdering innocence. To relate the title to the story, Mary is the weak and innocent lamb, and is being (not literally) slaughtered by her husband when he announces that he is leaving her and her unborn child. Killing her husband was a way of her becoming strong and killing her status as a lamb; slaughtering the lamb within her.
Still from the film Lamb To the Slaughter by Alfred Hitchcock
Prezi by
Jessica Nauta,
Kevin Ellsworth,
and Evan Amaral

Still from the film Lamb To The Slaughter by Alfred Hitchcock
Full transcript