How is Mary Maloney described in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mary is described over and over again as peaceful.  Although Dahl will suggest in some parts that she is happy, and in others that she is shocked or sorrowful, overall Mary is peaceful woman, hard to ruffle.  She is calm when she kills her husband, calm when ordering groceries, calm when the police arrive.  She is not overally affected by the world around her, which makes us wonder is she exceptionally well-adjusted or just exceptionally disturbed.  Here are Dahl's own words:

There was a slow smiling air about her, and about everything she did.  The drop of a head as she bent over her sewing was curiously tranquil.  Her skin -for this was her sixth month with child-had acquired a wonderful translucent quality, the mouth was soft, and the eyes, with their new placid look, seemed larger darker than before.

And then, after she kills him, she barely reacts except to plan ahead:

The violence of the crash, the noise, the small table overturning, helped bring her out of he shock.  She came out slowly, feeling cold and surprised, and she stood for a while blinking at the body, still holding the ridiculous piece of meat tight with both hands.

All right, she told herself.  So I’ve killed him.

It was extraordinary, now, how clear her mind became all of a sudden. 

Read the study guide:
Lamb to the Slaughter

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