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Lamb to the Slaughter
Transcript of Lamb to the Slaughter
Betrayal is an act of disloyalty from one person to another, breaking their bonds and replacing it with hatred. It can stem from jealousy, anger, or frustration which can lead to severe consequences. In the short story "Lamb to the Slaughter" written by Roald Dahl both characters, Mary and Patrick Maloney, portray the theme of betrayal through their actions which lead to Patrick's ultimate downfall. Betrayal is developed through the use of approaches of feminism and psychological. The feminist approach looks at Mary Maloney as a dynamic character who is under oppression, while the psychological approach examines her behaviour and motivation behind her actions.
The time the short story is set is during the 1950's.
-Men came home after World War II taking their jobs working in the assembly lines or service jobs
-Thus, during this time women were expected to run the house, be the 'perfect' wife and housekeeper.
-Role of women in the 1950's were repressive and constrictive. They were treated with little dignity and inequality.
-Were supposed to fulfill certain roles, such as a caring mother, a diligent homemaker, and an obedient wife.
- Submissive housewife who is six months pregnant.
- Gender stereotypes of women are shown through the beginning of the story:
"She laid aside her sewing [...] took his coat and hung it in the closet. Then she walked over and made the drinks '"
-Women are portrayed as a housewife and are permissive to their husband
-Mary is prepared to do anything to please her husband
-In the beginning of the story she was depicted as a loving and loyal women who was a static character. However, when Patrick says he is going to divorce her, Mary suddenly changes into a devious and cold hearted woman.
-She cannot handle the rejection, becomes shocked, lashing out, ultimately murdering her husband
-Becomes disloyal and untrustworthy by committing the act of murder, demonstrating betrayal
Mary Maloney is married to detective Patrick Maloney in what seems to be a happy relationship. She is also pregnant with his child. He comes home one day from work and to her surprise doesn’t want to go out for dinner like they usually do on Thursdays. She tries to be an understanding wife and offers to cook for him. He also refuses her offer. He sits her down and says that he has something important to tell her and he does. Shocked and heartbroken by the news he has given her, Mary goes into the kitchen to cook the meal anyway. She picks up a lamb leg from the freezer and without realizing it, knocks Patrick out killing him. She puts the lamb in the oven to cook and quickly grabs her stuff and runs for the convenient store so she can use that as a cover. She acts completely normal and only when she gets home does she realize what she has done. She panics- for real this time and calls the police. The police come to investigate and find no prints or evidence. Tired from working all day, the investigation crew agree to eat the lamb leg that Mary had offered them. So they take a break from looking for the murder weapon and sit down at the table and eat it.
- Mary Maloney's behavior in the the story is irrational
Mary shows her deep affection towards her husband by showing that she cares for him (anticipating his return from work and trying to prepare his supper)
Her husband tells her a heart-breaking news: he wants to divorce her
the pain that he caused her became her motivation and reason to decide to kill him
she was overwhelmed by the shocking news that her thoughts were not clear when she decided to react to situation
she didn't realize what she had done until she saw him dead; she started to feel guilt and regret
"It was extraordinary, now, how clear her mind became all of a sudden. She began thinking very fast. As a wife of a detective, she knew quite well what the penalty would be."
- Mary Maloney's character reveals that we have the ability to make illogical decisions based on our impulse
without thinking much about what the possible consequences might be, she went ahead and hit his head with a lamb
"Mark Maloney simply walked up behind him, and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air ..."
- After Mary Maloney committed the crime, she still had the audacity to try to cover it up even after she felt guilt and sorrow; which shows that she can't deal with the responsibilities of her actions
"All the old love and longing for him welled up inside her, and she ran over to him, knelt down beside him and began to cry her heart out. It was easy. No acting was necessary."
- Mary Maloney's act of killing her husband to seek revenge for the pain he caused her emphasizes the theme of betrayal
both the characters betray each other, leading to Patrick's death
Patrick betrays Mary by wanting to get a divorce. This breaks their trust in the relationship, causing agony and strife
Mary betrays her husband by killing him. After all their love towards one another, she decides to take away his life, instead of talking to him to try to fix their problem.
The main theme present in the short story Lamb to the Slaughter is betrayal. Mary's voice in the beginning tells the reader that she truly does love her husband so why does she end up killing him? Patrick betrays his pregnant wife by cheating on her and tells her that he is leaving her. Angered, she grabs the leg of the lamb and strikes him. So in the end, she also betrays him physically. His betrayal towards her is what caused her to lose control of her actions and him to die. Betrayal was shown from both of them because she could not stand the idea of him living without her. Betrayal seems to be the
main theme of this short story.
Appearance vs. Reality
The biggest symbol in the story is the lamb leg. The lamb is usually considered a weak animal. At the beginning, Mary was also considered a weak character. In the end she uses the lamb leg to kill her husband who betrayed her which proves her strength. This shows how appearance vs. reality is definitely a theme because Mary appears to be sweet and harmless at the beginning but then proves otherwise at the end.
- Detectives are looking for a murder weapon as they eat it
- Mary makes the detectives eat the only proof that she committed the crime
Roald Dahl shows how both emotional and physical betrayal can affect someone in
Lamb to the Slaughter
. To begin with, Patrick emotionally betrays Mary by telling her he is leaving her which lead Mary to physically betray him by killing him with the leg of the lamb. To conclude, Mary's act was only a reaction to the jealousy, anger and frustration she felt towards her husband in that moment.
-In the short story, Patrick is portrayed as a patriot
-Shown that men are more superior than women
-He is a respected detective among his co-workers
-An irresponsible husband who wants to divorce his pregnant wife
"And I know it's kind of a bad time to be telling you, but there simply wasn't any other way. Of course I'll give you money and see if you're looked after. But there needn't be any fuss. I hope not anyway. It wouldn't be very good for my job"
-Concerned about his job rather than the feelings of Mary
-Emphasizes how selfish he is
-Ultimately gets murdered by his wife with a leg of a lamb after he tells the shocking news.
1. How is feminism different now than it was in the 1950s?
2. If you were in Mary's position, would you have reacted the same she did?
3. How would you justify Mary's actions? Explain.
A little bit about the Author
- Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916 in Wales, UK.
- He died November 23, 1990
- He was a WWII pilot and wrote his first paid piece based on that
- His first full length story was The Gremlins, which he worked on for Disney