illustrated tablesetting with a plate containing a large lamb-leg roast resting on a puddle of blood

Lamb to the Slaughter

by Roald Dahl

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Describe Mary’s character at the beginning of the story using textual evidence.

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At the beginning of the story, Mary is presented as an attentive, loving wife. She waits for her husband to return home from work, and she has a drink waiting for him. Dahl writes that she has a "slow smiling air about her," suggesting that she is also content. We also learn that she is pregnant and that her skin, as a result, has "a wonderful translucent quality." Dahl also describes her as having a "placid look" in her eyes.

When Mary's husband returns home, however, our interpretation of her character changes somewhat. We realize just how much her peace of mind and happiness is dependent upon her husband. Indeed, Dahl writes that she "loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man." We also realize that her husband clearly doesn't feel the same way about her as she does about him. He speaks to her curtly, with brief, perfunctory, monosyllabic responses.

Accordingly, we start to feel pity for Mary. Her happiness, which is so dependent upon her husband, is built upon very precarious foundations. He does not appear to love her, and so her happiness seems unlikely to last much longer.

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