How does Mary Maloney feel about her marriage at the beginning of the story?

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samcestmoi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the reader first meets Mary Maloney, she is sitting in a state of peacefulness in her living room, sewing and waiting for her husband to come home from work. She is very calm and happy; not anxious for Patrick to return, but satisfied at the knowledge that he will. And as soon as he arrives, she stands to kiss him hello. Mary is clearly very much in love with her husband, and they seem to have a happy, comfortable life together. As the couple have a drink together in the living room, Mary reflects on how wonderful it is to have Patrick home at the end of the day—“She loved the warmth that came out of him when they were alone together,” Dahl writes. “She loved the shape of his mouth, and especially liked the way he didn’t complain about being tired.”

Mary adores her husband, it’s plain to see—small details like these of their life together comfort her, and she takes pleasure in knowing Patrick’s habits and being able to both attend and adapt to them. She makes the drinks as soon as he arrives home; she keeps quiet until he has finished his first drink; she knows how tired he is after a long day and does her best to make him happy. The couple usually goes out to eat every Thursday night; they have clearly been together long enough to have established a routine (plus Mary is six months pregnant). They know each other well and are comfortable in each other’s presence.

Of course, all these details simply add to the shock and horror of Patrick’s confession this Thursday night, and to the impulsive, violent events that follow.

Read the study guide:
Lamb to the Slaughter

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