Lamb to the Slaughter Questions and Answers
by Roald Dahl

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Who is the lamb in "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl? Who or what is being slaughtered? 

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A number of different lambs are sacrificed in the story. Aside from the lamb literally sacrificed to provide Mary's dinner, there's Patrick, the husband she murders, who's a metaphorical lamb to the slaughter.

It may seem strange to compare such a man of the world to something so helpless and meek as a lamb, but it is an entirely appropriate description being as how in losing his life, Patrick also lost his innocence. Patrick had always believed that Mary was a meek and mild housewife who could easily be cheated on and abandoned without any repercussions. He never once thought that beneath that mousy, unassuming exterior there beat the heart of a cold, ruthless killer.

His understanding of the woman he married was as clouded by innocence as Mary's understanding of him. Both had been laboring under delusions for so many years that they never really understood each other. Such innocence—this lamb, if you will—is brutally slaughtered on that fateful night when Mary transforms herself into a murderer.

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gocchiuzzi eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title “Lamb to the Slaughter” can be interpreted in multiple ways. Throughout the course of the story, the reader gains insight into how both Mary and her husband are “slaughtered,” though in different senses. The phrase itself is biblical, referring to an innocent lamb unknowingly being led to the slaughterhouse. Its figurative interpretation follows along these lines; the lamb is someone innocent going into a dangerous situation. In the story, the husband is literally slaughtered, so he can be seen as the lamb. He does not know that he is about to be killed. In another sense, however, Mary is the lamb. At the story’s start, she is innocent—oblivious to the devastating news she is about to receive. She waits calmly and contently for her husband to return from work:

Now and again she glanced at the clock, but without anxiety: She merely wanted to satisfy herself that each minute that...

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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