What is the irony behind the title of "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The irony of the title lies in its ambivalent implications; through his fantastic story, Roald Dahl introduces an unlikely twist to the way this famous phrase is interpreted. He chooses to focus on a more direct interpretation rather than emphasize the conventional metaphor we are used to.

The phrase "lamb to the slaughter" is typically an allusion to Christ being led as an innocent to his undeserved death. In this story, the narrator chooses to use the phrase to characterize an actual leg of lamb as a weapon. The leg of lamb is literally the instrument of slaughter.

In the story, Mary Maloney is a faithful and loving wife; she is a woman who enjoys waiting on her husband. One evening, her husband comes home visibly agitated, only to confess that he has decided to leave her. The news shocks Mary to the point that she finds it difficult to function. At six months pregnant, Mary is in an unenviable position.

After her husband's refusal to eat dinner and his injunction that she not make a fuss, Mary whacks him on the back of his head with a frozen leg of lamb.

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Lamb to the Slaughter

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