Is Mary Maloney the lamb in Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter"?She is the lamb because of her weak-mind and innocence. When she's sewing & trying to comfort her husband (innocence). Then she...

Is Mary Maloney the lamb in Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

She is the lamb because of her weak-mind and innocence. When she's sewing & trying to comfort her husband (innocence). Then she turns into the Slaughterer because of she can not accept the fact that her husband is leaving her (weak minded like a lamb needing a herd to move). When she becomes the slaughterer, she has traits of a serial killer being both deceitful and unsympathetic.


Are these good enough reasons to prove why Mary is the "Lamb" in the Lamb To The Slaughter?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I don't necessarily disagree with the first answer, but I think that there is an alternative way to look at this question.  I think that the title is ironic.  I think that Mary is the lamb, but only in the minds of others.

I think that Patrick sees Mary as a lamb that he can lead to slaughter.  That is really what she looks like at the start of the story.  She looks like a steretypical submissive wife from that era and Patrick thinks he can do what he wants.

It is at that point that the title becomes ironic.  Patrick has completely misread Mary.  She is not submissive and passive at all but rather strong and decisive.  The police also overlook this fact.

I would say that Mary is the lamb, but I would say that Dahl is being ironic when he uses that phrase.

By the way, I really like Mary in this story and I don't think what she did is reprehensible...

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It seems as if you have misinterpreted Mary Maloney's character.  First, the title of the story does not imply that a lamb turns into a slaughterer; rather, it represents an innocent creature being led to its death--that does not describe Mary.

While Mary does "slaughter" her husband, it would be more appropriate to argue that the police (her husband's comrades) are the lambs.  When the story opens, Mary's husband, a police officer, springs the news on his pregnant wife that he is leaving her.  If you keep in mind the time setting of the story, you see that Mary views herself as the dutiful wife who waits for her husband to come home each day, hangs on his every word, caters to his every need, and then he repays her in such a manner.  Divorce during the Maloneys' time would have still carried somewhat of a social stigma especially when coupled with Mary's pregnancy.  As the reader considers that all these thoughts fly through Mary's head as her husband talks, he must admit that Mary's quick action--while reprehensible--is hardly that of an innocent lamb.

Similarly, after Mary murders her husband, she uses her innocent appearance and demeanor to fool the grocer and the men who would have known her husband best.  In contrast, the police who show up to Mary's house might as well be figurative lambs going to the slaughterhouse.  They pander to Mary's needs and comfort her, refusing to see her as a suspect, and they eat the murder weapon to appease the "distraught" young widow. Their failure to look past Mary's outward demeanor demonstrates that they are the ones with the herd mentality.

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