Lamb to the Slaughter Characters

The main characters in “Lamb to the Slaughter” are Mary Maloney, Patrick Maloney, and Sergeant Jack Noonan.

  • Mary Maloney is six months pregnant and devoted to her husband, Patrick. When Patrick announces he is leaving her, however, Mary kills him with a leg of lamb and feeds the murder weapon to the police.
  • Patrick Maloney is Mary’s husband and a beat policeman. He tells Mary he is leaving her but will continue to provide for her financially.
  • Sergeant Jack Noonan is a policeman at Patrick’s precinct. He answers Mary’s phone call and unknowingly consumes the murder weapon along with his colleagues.


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Mary Maloney

Mary Maloney, the story’s protagonist, is six months pregnant and satisfied with her (from an external perspective) rather banal life with her policeman- husband Patrick, whom she adores. She had ‘‘a slow smiling air about her’’ and was ‘‘curiously tranquil.’’ Mary keeps a neat home, and busies herself with preparations for the baby. When Patrick unexpectedly announces that he is ending their marriage, Mary enters a state of shock. She automatically goes to the basement to remove some- thing from the freezer for supper. She takes the first thing she finds—a leg of lamb—carries it back up the stairs, approaches her husband from behind, and strikes him on the head with the frozen leg of lamb. He falls to the floor dead. ‘‘The violence of the crash, the noise, the small table overturning, helped bring her out of the shock.’’ Concern for the wellbeing of her coming child leads her to act quickly and efficiently to establish an alibi. She starts cooking the leg of lamb, rehearses a normal conversation with the grocer, and then goes to the store to buy vegetables. She hurries home, thinking that if ‘‘she happened to find anything unusual, or tragic, or terrible, then naturally it would be a shock and she’d become frantic with grief and horror.’’ In fact, when she sees her husband’s lifeless body again, she remembers her ‘‘love and longing for him’’ and cries over him quite sincerely. She then telephones her husband’s police colleagues and collapses in a chair while they search the house for the ‘‘heavy blunt instrument, almost certainly a large piece of metal,’’ that is believed to be the missing murder weapon. When a sergeant points out that the oven is still on and the leg of lamb is done, Mary urges the policemen—’’good friends of dear Patrick’s . . . helping to catch the man who killed him’’—to eat it bercause she knows they have missed their own suppers.The policemen consume the murder weapL on while speculating about the case. ‘‘And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle.’’

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Patrick Maloney

Patrick Maloney is a policeman still walking a beat. The reader learns that it is unusual for him to drain most of his evening cocktail in one swallow, as he does when he first comes home. He replies in short sentences or monosyllables as Mary watches him intently, trying to anticipate and fulfil his desires by offering to fix him another drink, bring his slippers, fix him a snack. He does not answer at all when Mary expresses her displeasure that ‘‘a policeman as senior as you’’ is still walking a beat—a suggestion that Patrick may not be especially successful at his job. On the evening of the story, Patrick abruptly announces that he is leaving Mary, although he will continue to provide for her financially. His only acknowlegement of her pregnancy is that he says he knows ‘‘it’s kind of a bad time to be telling you.’’ He hopes that there will be no fuss about it. Although the reader is told little outright about Patrick’s character, the narrative implicitly...

(The entire section contains 877 words.)

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