What are the instances of black comedy in the story "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl?

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rogal eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main example of black comedy in the story happens when Mrs. Maloney offers the detectives, who are at her house looking for the weapon used to murder Mr. Maloney, the cooked leg of lamb for supper. The detectives eat up the murder weapon without knowing it. It is funny that they talk about the weapon while eating it up. One of the detectives even says that the weapon is “probably right under their noses,” to the amusement of Mrs. Maloney.

Another example of black comedy happens at the beginning of the story. It is funny that Mrs. Maloney, who comes across as a gentle loving wife, should strike her husband dead using the single leg of lamb which is intended for supper. Afterwards, Mrs. Maloney plans her alibi so well that all the detectives are quite fooled.

Also, it is darkly funny how Mrs. Maloney answers the grocer’s question on whether she would like to buy some meat. She says that she has meat, and adds that she has a “nice leg of lamb from the freezer,” knowing very well that she had just, a few moments before, used the same “leg of lamb” to murder her husband. Also, by saying that she “has meat,” she could mean that she has lots of meat, including her dead husband’s body.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several instances of black comedy in Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter." When Mary commits the murder of her husband, for example, her reaction makes light of the violence which has just occurred:

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

Next, after committing the murder, Mary tries to make herself appear as normal as possible. She washes her hands, for example, fixes her make-up and practices her smile in the mirror. This scene is humorous because Mary does all of these things while there is a dead body lying next to her.

Finally, Dahl uses black comedy to add humour to the final scene in the story in which the police detectives are discussing the murder weapon. They have no idea that they are, in fact, eating the weapon which killed their colleague, Patrick Maloney. The sense of comedy is further reinforced by the image of Mary laughing in the other room. 

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Lamb to the Slaughter

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