Appearance vs. RealityHow does Dahl's use of the difference between appearance and reality make "Lamb to the Slaughter" a satisfying and entertaining short story?

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kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story it appears that Mary is the weaker character. She waits patiently at home for her husband to return, and waits on him like a servant. She is pregnant, and we see this as making her vulnerable too.  When Patrick tells her he is leaving her, we see her as the victim of the tale; even more so when he reveals that he does not want the breakdown in the relationship to tarnish his career-

"Of course, I’ll give you money and see you’re looked after. But there needn’t really be any fuss.’’

Patrick is selfish and inert to the maelstrom of emotions his news creates in the mind of his devoted, pregnant wife. Once she has killed him opportunistically with the leg of lamb, we are impressed at her ability to focus to set up her alibi.

 As she has been the devoted wife, there is no reason for anyone to think otherwise of Mary. The grocer is happy to help her organise the missing ingredients of her husband's supper, and the police from Patrick's station are sensitive to the shocked and grieving pregnant widow. She is in shock, but more about how she will manage to conceal the knowledge of her crime to preserve herself and her unborn child.

The serving of the roasted lamb fits with Mary's persona as a devoted and benevolet housewife, who would of course be indebted to her husband's colleagues for their prompt and sensitive investigation in to the crime. Mary has always been methodical in her domestic duties and simply appears to be continuing to do so, when in reality she is destroying the evidence of her crime.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with everything that Post 2 says, but that post only tells us how Dahl makes appearance and reality differ.  The post does not say why these differences are satisfying and entertaining.

To me, the differences mentioned above make us have sympathy for Mary and therefore make the story more satisfying.  If it had been clear from the start that Mary was so competent and cold-blooded, we would be much less likely to feel sorry for her.  As it is, though, we feel sorry for her because she seems helpless and victimized.  Because of this, we (or at least I) are happy when she turns the tables on Patrick, kills him, and then gets away with it.  Had Dahl portrayed her as strong and steely, we would be much less likely to feel this way and the story would be less satisfying.

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Lamb to the Slaughter

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