I am making an oral presentation on the story "Lamb to the Slaughter" and was wondering what the main purpose would be?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you are making an oral presentation of Roald Dahl's short story "Lamb to the Slaughter", you can choose your main purpose from the following thematic elements that are present in the story:

1. The instinct of survival-  In the story we find a happily-married pregnant woman, Mary Maloney, enjoying herself in the lap of comfort and protection. Suddenly, her entire world comes crashing down when her husband comes from work and, out of nowhere, tells her that he is leaving her. 

When Mary snaps and clubs her husband to death with the frozen lamb, she is not premeditating a murder. It is instinct, more than anger, what drives her to the ultimate act of insanity. Maybe her world, as well as her sanity, come both crashing down with her husband's cruelty.

Also, when Mary creates her alibi and then feeds the murder weapon to the police who arrive at her house, she is not really thinking about purposely hiding a murder. She is, first and foremost, thinking about protecting herself; a good citizen who committed a dreadful, but impulsive, action. However she is also thinking about protecting her unborn child. 

2. Connubial complacency- What could have possibly caused the deterioration of the Maloney's marriage? We could assume that it was another woman, but the actual words are not said in the story. All we know is that, by all accounts, Mary was perfectly happy prior to her husband's revelation. However, was she too comfortable while signals of a bad marriage were everywhere? Do we know that her husband was a good man, or that they were even happy together? All we know is that he is a policeman which, to our common knowledge, represents itself as a dutiful and respectable profession. However, is he a doting husband or is this merely what Mary makes herself believe? Could getting too used to the idea that things are OK be a very bad mistake in married life? Could it lead to the believe that things are OK, when they are not?

3. Who is Mary?- Roald Dahl changes the character of Mary from that of a simple, happy wife to that of a woman who is quite capable of planning the perfect murder. This is an interesting shift considering that an "average" person would be too shocked and nervous to think of so many details to cover the tracks of a murder. We must allow ourselves the benefit of the doubt: is Mary a psychopath wolf dressed as an innocent lamb? Was she ever the type of wife who, like many other women, would fantasize on what she would do if her husband ever threatened to leave her. In reality...what DO we REALLY know about Mary? Think about the way that she reacts as the men eat the lamb with which she kills her husband

And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle.

Therefore, there are many things to consider as focal points for a presentation on "Lamb to the Slaughter." The story is deceivingly simple, for it contains dark aspects of human nature that include violence and perversity among other things. There is a lot of information that you can gather from this short story. Just make sure that you do NOT select but ONE thematic element. One topic will render you enough information to support your main idea.