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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In "Lamb to the Slaughter," did Mary Maloney go to jail after killing her husband?

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The point of the story is that Mary gets away with the crime of murdering her husband. She does not go to jail. The police think she is innocent, even as they are eating the murder weapon she used, a frozen, and now cooked, leg of lamb.

The title of the story is ironic. A young and devoted wife—and one who also happens to be pregnant—discovers that her husband has been having an affair. He tells her he plans to divorce her. That would make her, Mary, the lamb to the slaughter, for "lamb to the slaughter" is a figurative phrase that describes an innocent victim.

Mary, however, takes a (leg of) lamb and literally uses it to slaughter her husband by hitting him on the back of the head with it. This is the real meaning of the title of the story.

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The ending makes it clear that Mary Maloney manages to commit the perfect murder by getting the police officers who visit the property to investigate themselves to dispose of the murder weapon. If you look at the ending, you see that the police officers actually eat the leg of lamb with which Mary killed her husband, and what is even more darkly ironic, they talk about the murder weapon whilst they eat it:

One of them belched.

“Personally, I think it’s right here on the premises.”

“Probably right under our very noses.  What you think, Jack?”

And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle.

This shows that Mary through her cunning has managed to kill her husband and use her knowledge as a policeman's wife to recognise how important it is to get rid of the murder weapon so it cannot be found or linked to her in any way. She has found the perfect way of doing this through cooking the leg of lamb and serving it to the officers. Her innocence and future, and that of her baby, is assured.

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