illustrated tablesetting with a plate containing a large lamb-leg roast resting on a puddle of blood

Lamb to the Slaughter

by Roald Dahl
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What does "Lamb to the Slaughter" tell us about society, humanity, or human nature from a psychological perspective?

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The answer to this question is subjective. That means it will differ from reader to reader. I think the general goal of this question is to force an answer to analyze Mary and her actions. Patrick has decided to leave her, and her world is completely turned on end. She kills her husband in response. An answer could analyze that aspect of things; however, I like looking at Mary after the killing has occurred. I think it is valuable to examine human nature from Mary's point of view. She is somewhat willing to face the consequences of her crime, but she is not willing to have those consequences affect her unborn child. She is willing to do anything to protect that baby; therefore, she figures out a way to get away with murder. I think this shows readers a valuable lesson about how far a mother's love for her child can go.

As the wife of a detective, she knew quite well what the penalty would be. That was fine. It made no difference to her. In fact, it would be a relief. On the other hand, what about the child? What were the laws about murderers with unborn children? Did they kill then both-mother and child? Or did they wait until the tenth month? What did they do?

Mary Maloney didn’t know. And she certainly wasn’t prepared to take a chance.

It also might be worth examining the possibility about it being human nature to try and get out of something if there is even a small chance to get away with it.

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"Lamb to the Slaughter" tells us any human is capable of murder if they have adequate provocation. Mary Maloney is provoked when her husband tells her he wants a divorce, an announcement which her husband makes in the middle of the story. Prior to this news, Mary is the ideal wife: she is a pregnant homemaker who busies herself by fulfilling the needs of her husband. Once she is dealt this blow, however, Mary is placed under significant psychological stress, as shown by her description in the text:

She couldn't feel anything except a slight sickness. She did everything without thinking.

These psychological changes transform Mary from an ordinary housewife into a murderess who uses the first object she comes across—a leg of lamb—to murder her husband. This suggests every person has a breaking point and, when pushed, is capable of acting in the most violent and shocking way. 

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