Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

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In "Lamb to the Slaughter," what does Mary Maloney do for her husband coming home?

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Jonathan Beutlich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mary Maloney is the quintessential doting wife. She anticipates her husband's every conceivable notion, desire, and or need. Take a look at the first paragraph.

The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight-hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.

Notice that she has the lighting perfectly set for where Patrick is going to sit, and she even has his drinks ready and waiting to be poured. Whatever need of his that she has not anticipated, she is willing to immediately execute once she knows what he wants or needs. Patrick doesn't even have to remove his own coat. She takes it from him, and she hangs it in the closet. Patrick's personal comfort is paramount to her, and she loves sitting down with him and knowing that her actions help to make him happier.

She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel-almost as a sunbather feels the sun-that warm 25 male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together.

This incredible portrayal of her is what makes her eventual killing of Patrick such a shock to readers.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Everything! It really is quite sickening the way that Mary Maloney panders to her husbands every whim. Just consider the first paragraph of the story and see how it presents her as a wife who is completely devoted to her husband:

The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight--hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glassess, soda water, whisky. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.

Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work.

Note how everything is completely ready for her husband's arrival. She has clearly worked hard to do this, and we can infer from her attitude towards her husband that she does this every single day for him as well. I know it was just Valentine's Day yesterday, but please: this is rather exaggerated. Of course, you need to be aware of what Dahl is doing through this. He is clearly setting up her character as a devoted wife, which makes the situational irony of what happens later in the story all the more acute.

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