What is the setting of "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let me begin by giving a little background info regarding this story in general.  The story is written by Roald Dahl.  He first published it in 1953 as a response to a challenge from Ian Fleming (the author of the James Bond books).   Jennet Conant's book, The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington, explains the specifics of the challenge.  Freezers had been around for decades, and by the 1950's they were quite common to have in homes.  Over dinner one night, Dahl supposedly asked Fleming what would be the best weapon that someone might have in their freezer.  Fleming's response was to suggest that Dahl write a story in which the main character commits a murder with a mutton leg. 

I can't give you a specific country, state, or city for the setting of this story, but based on the publication date and rumored inspiration of this story, I believe that it is set in the mid 1950's.  It was common for men to go to work and women to stay at home at that time in history, so the fact that Mary is dutifully waiting for her husband to get home fits the time period.  The specific place setting, while not specific to a city, is specific to the Maloney household.  The majority of the story takes place in Mary's home.  She makes a brief trip to the local grocer in order to establish her alibi, but the rest of the story takes place in various rooms of Mary's house. 

clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting for this story is primarily in a normal middle-class home that is described as very warm and cozy. The murder takes place in the sitting room where the couple meets so that Mary can it with Patrick while he winds down for the evening with a drink.

brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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kimyman | Student

 would suggest the setting is not England but Ireland - the names used Maloney, Noonan, Patrick all being Irish names but more importantly and very subtly "whiskey" is an Irish drink - the English drink "whisky" from Scotland.

An alternative which is probably as attractive is it being set in an Irish community in America.

The dating points towards the American setting being just as likely as Ireland if not more so.

The Maloneys had a home freezer - they were not introduced to the USA until 1940 and were much later becoming widespread in England or Ireland. They were not a rich family so clearly the use of home freezers had become quite widespread by the time the story was set. It was written in 1954 so probably set around then.

On balance I would plump for early 1950s in an Irish community in America.

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Lamb to the Slaughter

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