What questions could a teacher ask in an exam about "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Teachers tend to ask 2 types of questions--easy ones where the answers can be found right in the story.  These questions tend to be ones that are about what happened in the story. A few examples of these types of questions:

  • How did Mary Maloney kill her husband?
  • How did Mary Maloney get rid of the evidence of her murder?
  • What did Mary Maloney tell the grocer that helped her to create her story of innocence?
  • What did Mary Maloney's huband say to her that made her so angry?

The answers to these types of questions can all be found in the story itself as you read.

The other types of questions that teachers tend to ask are harder questions, where the answer isn't right there in the story.  These ones make  you think very hard about what happened, and to guess about things that haven't happened.  They ask you to use clues from the story to guess what is going on that isn't super obvious.  Here are some examples of these harder questions:

  • Why did the policemen believe Mary Maloney's story?
  • Write a scene that describes what happens after the story ends.
  • How did Mary's personality change throughout the story?
  • Explain in more detail why you think her husband was leaving her.

These types of questions ask you to guess things, based on clues in the story itself.  But you have to fill in the gaps.

I hope that these comments helped. Good luck!

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I really don't know what most teachers would ask on an exam about this story. I have a lot of questions about it myself, and some of these might come up in some exams.

Does Mary's sudden change of character seem believable? Could she have managed to kill her husband with one blow with that unusual weapon? 

Why do you suppose her husband wants a divorce? What are three or four possible reasons why Patrick might have wanted a divorce at that time? 

Why do the police investigators focus so much of their attention on the murder weapon? If they couldn't find it fairly quickly, wouldn't they assume that whoever committed the murder simply took the murder weapon with him? In fact, doesn't it seem likely that an intruder would not want to leave a murder weapon at the scene of his crime?

Does it seem plausible that four policemen would devour a whole leg of lamb and never suspect that a frozen leg of lamb might have been the murder weapon?

How long does it take to cook a frozen leg of lamb in an oven before it is ready to eat? Did Mary have enough time to do this? 

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Specific questions that are relevant to this story rather than general questions about character, plot and theme would be a focus on the use of irony in this tale. Most collections used in schools use this excellent short story as an example of irony on many different levels. You might want to help prepare yourself for such a question by identifying examples of situational, dramatic and verbal irony and also considering how the title of the short story with its Biblical allusion is likewise incredibly ironic.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What are the common themes in this story?

Outline the plot line of the story.

Who is the protagonist?  Antagonist?  How do you know?

Which character(s) do you identify with most?  Why?

What would you do differently if you had been in any of the character's shoes?  Why would you act this way?


cookiee-monster | Student

Most teacher would ask this:

What is/are the irony(s) in the story?

helloimsarah | Student

Who is the lamb? (innocent,pure,unaware of impending doom)

Who do you feel more sympathy for? Mary or Patrick Maloney?

epollock | Student

1) What is Patrick's job?

2) What is Mary doing at the beginning of the story?

3) When Patrick returns, what does Mary notice about him?

4) What does Mary cook for dinner?

5) Why does she cook that for dinner?

6) What causes Mary to hit him in the head with the leg of lamb?

7) What does Mary do before she calls the police? 

8) What was the murder weapon?

9) What was ironic about the policeman's statement that the murder weapon was "right under our noses"?

permina | Student

was mary wise to deceive her husband into thinking she was an obedient wife?

khsb-2012 | Student

Write and describe some of the literary elements that Dahl uses in "Lamb to the Slaughter"