What is Mary's conflict in "Lamb to the Slaughter?"
Mary's conflict is to protect her unborn child no matter what. She is surprised at her ability to despatch her husband so swiftly, but it is the though of the child within her which focuses her attention on covering up the crime. She first begins to consider the future for them both-
It was extraordinary, now, how clear her mind became all of a sudden. She began thinking very fast. 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 is this primitive urge to protect which enables placid, devoted Mary Maloney to ensure that her husband's murder becomes the perfect crime.
Mary faces two conflicts in "Lamb to the Slaughter." The first occurs early in the story when Patrick tells her that he wants a divorce. This news shocks Mary to her core because she loves Patrick and does not want him to leave her. Thus, she responds by hitting Patrick over the head with a frozen leg of lamb. Patrick's death resolves this conflict because she no longer has to worry about getting a divorce since she makes herself a widow.
Mary's second conflict occurs after the murder when she is considering what to do next. As the wife of a police detective, Mary knows that many murderers are executed and she is worried that her unborn child might also be killed:
"What were the laws about murderers with unborn children? Did they kill them both—mother and child?"
Not wanting to take the risk, Mary resolves this conflict by covering up her crime. She develops an alibi (by visiting the grocery store) and feeds the murder weapon to the police detectives who visit her home.