What is the symbolism of making the leg of lamb the murder weapon in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

The symbolism of making the leg of lamb the murder weapon in "Lamb to the Slaughter" is that it tells us about the previous character of the murderer. Prior to the killing, Mary was wholly innocent, as innocent as a lamb. It's therefore somewhat ironic that she should have used the leg of lamb to kill her husband.

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The title of the story "Lamb to the Slaughter " plays with the traditional ideal of a lamb as a symbol of innocence. The term "lamb to the slaughter" refers to the ancient custom of sacrificing an innocent, unblemished creature, usually a lamb, to atone for the sins of...

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The title of the story "Lamb to the Slaughter" plays with the traditional ideal of a lamb as a symbol of innocence. The term "lamb to the slaughter" refers to the ancient custom of sacrificing an innocent, unblemished creature, usually a lamb, to atone for the sins of people. In addition, because he was considered innocent of any crime, Christ is often depicted as the Lamb of God sent to be sacrificed for the sins of the human race.

Mary, who is depicted as a lamblike, innocent figure, is marked by her husband to be sacrificed for his whims. He coldly tells her when she is heavily pregnant—and equally heavily invested in her role as wife and homemaker—that he is divorcing her. He expects her not to make a fuss, because it would hurt his career. He puts his needs ahead of hers and expects her to willingly go along.

This lamb, however, has other ideas. Mary fights back, and instead of being the lamb taken to the slaughter, she becomes the lamb who takes to slaughter. That the lamb is breaking out of its traditional role is emphasized when Mary uses a frozen leg of lamb to whack her husband on the head, killing him. In the context of this story, the leg of lamb symbolizes the innocent fighting back. Dahl could have used another frozen animal, but it would not have had the same symbolic impact.

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In the Christian religion, the lamb is represented as a symbol of purity, innocence, and self-sacrifice. In traditional iconography, the Lamb of God, or Agnus Dei in Latin, was often used to represent the figure of Christ, who was himself pure and innocent and sacrificed his life to save humankind.

That being the case, there's something ironic about the use of the leg of lamb as a murder weapon in “Lamb to the Slaughter.” When we're first introduced to Mary Maloney, she comes across as wholly innocent of the ways of the world. There's a certain purity about her that indicates a sense of unworldliness and naivety. She also appears to be the kind of woman who's prepared to make regular sacrifices for her husband in order to make him happy.

Yet all that changes when Mary kills her husband by hitting him over the head with a leg of lamb. The symbol of lamb, traditionally associated as we've seen with purity, innocence, and self-sacrifice, has now been turned into a murder weapon. In using the leg of lamb this way, Mary is unwittingly subverting a traditional Christian symbol and, in the process, transforming herself from a Christ-like figure into a cold-blooded murderer.

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The leg of lamb is an effective weapon because of its weight and structure. The lamb is shaped like a club—it has a thickened section, which is frozen solid and is therefore just as dangerous as a steel club. The other end is much thinner and therefore easy to grasp, much like the handle of a club. Because of this, it was easy for Mary to swing when she hit Patrick behind the head. The resultant force of the blow caused maximum damage and Patrick instantly died of blunt force trauma.

Roald Dahl not only chose the leg of lamb as the logical choice for the above reason, but also because of its symbolism. Lambs are associated with peace and harmony. They are gentle and meek creatures. When one thinks of a lamb, it generates images of warmth, something woolly and cuddly. One thinks of green pastures with flocks grazing idly. Surely one cannot contemplate that it could be a source of danger?

So it is with Mary. The lamb symbolizes her docile, almost servile, attitude. She presents as a harmless being, intent on providing only the best for her husband. She goes out of her way to please him and provide his every whim. Before she kills Patrick, the reader is surprised by her absolute admiration and appreciation of him and her insistence to please him:

She took his coat and hung it in the closer. Then she walked over and made the drinks, a strongish one for him, a weak one for herself;

For her, this was always a blissful time of day.

She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel-almost as a sunbather feels the sun-that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together. She loved him for the way he sat loosely in a chair, for the way he came in a door, or moved slowly across the room with long strides. She loved intent, far look in his eyes when they rested in her, the funny shape of the mouth, and especially the way he remained silent about his tiredness, sitting still with himself until the whiskey had taken some of it away.

"I'll get it!" she cried, jumping up.

"Darling, shall I get your slippers?" and so on.

It is therefore ironically shocking later when this docile woman commits such a heinous act and cleverly covers up her misdeed by not only creating an alibi, but then also allowing the investigating officers to ingest the primary evidence, which has now been cooked and is presented to them as a meal. They are, of course, famished and merrily dig into the scrumptious offering, not realizing that they are getting rid of the evidence.

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