Is Mary Maloney from "Lamb to the Slaughter" sane?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mary was a sane woman except for the momentary lapse in judgment which she suffered due to anger. She was angry towards her husband who had made it clear that he wanted a divorce. The husband offered her no opportunity to talk about it or even ask questions regarding the reasons for the divorce. Mary attempted to ignore the situation and proceeded to inform her husband that she was going to prepare supper. Her reactions were perfectly normal given the weight of the situation. She was most likely going through shock and at the same time trying to process the event. The husband may have taken it too far by refusing to eat, leading her into a fit of rage that culminated in the murder. Her pregnancy made matters worse because her husband’s rejection was not only being directed at her but to their unborn child.

To further confirm that she was sane, Mary was able to devise a favorable sequence of events leading to her husband’s death. She secured her alibi by going to do some groceries and destroyed the murder weapon before the police came. The murder weapon was a frozen leg of lamb, which she cooked and ironically served to the policemen, who came by her house to conduct the preliminary investigations.

Arguments against Mary’s sanity

Depending on how one looks at it, Mary may also have displayed some psychopathic characteristics in the form of:

  • Leading a parasitic lifestyle by being seemingly clingy to her husband
  • Failing to accept responsibility for her own actions and instead choosing to avoid arrest
  • Exhibiting poor behavioral control by bludgeoning her husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb
  • Showing her lack of guilt by chuckling when one of the officers suggests that the weapon could be right under their very noses
Read the study guide:
Lamb to the Slaughter

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