In "Lamb to the Slaughter" how can you tell something is bothering Patrick?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mary Maloney waits for her husband to come home each night and knows exactly what he will do and say. Patrick's arrival that night is described from Mary's point of view, and she senses that something is wrong because he is not behaving in his usual way. A lot has to do with his drinking. Mary asks, "Tired, darling?"

"Yes," he said. "I'm tired," And as he spoke, he did an unusual thing. He lifted his glass and drained it in one swallow although there was still half of it, at least half of it left.

Then her husband gets up and makes himself another drink.

When he came back, she noticed that the new drink was dark amber with the quantity of whiskey in it.

For a bourbon-and-water highball to be that dark, it would have to be mostly whiskey. Patrick is drinking heavily because he is working up the resolve to say something that is preying on his mind.

Mary is solicitous, as usual. She asks him a number of questions and gets only terse replies. He is not exactly rude or hostile, but he is cold and distant. This homecoming is not like the peaceful, quiet ones Mary is accustomed to and looks forward to. Finally he tells her:

"Sit down," he said. "Just for a minute, sit down."

It wasn't till then that she began to get frightened.

"Go on," he said. "Sit down."

As she sits back down she notices that he has already finished that second highball containing at least three or four ounces of bourbon. He is now sufficiently fortified to tell her what is on his mind. Mary is aware that something is troubling him, but she has no suspicion that it should have everything to do with her and her marriage. When he said, "Yes, I'm tired," he meant that he was tired of her. He knows that what he is about to tell her will be devastating. He knows it is a bad enough thing for a man to do to his wife but much worse in this case because she is six months pregnant. 

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