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Lamb to the Slaughter

by Roald Dahl

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Clues indicating a break with routine in "Lamb to the Slaughter" before the husband's news

Summary:

In "Lamb to the Slaughter," clues indicating a break with routine before the husband's news include Patrick's unusual behavior, such as drinking more than usual, responding curtly to Mary, and rejecting her offers to prepare dinner. These actions signal to Mary that something is amiss, setting the stage for the revelation of his shocking news.

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Before the husband's news in "Lamb to the Slaughter," what three clues suggest a break with routine?

Mary and Patrick have an everyday routine which suggests the monotony of their lives. Mary, six months pregnant, is Patrick's servant, trying to anticipate his every want and need. What Mary doesn't recognize immediately is Patrick's tension when he breaks that routine. Patrick finishes off his first drink in one gulp and makes himself a stronger one after that. They usually go out to eat on Thursdays, but Mary offers to cook something and serve it to Patrick if he prefers to stay in. Patrick doesn't want dinner, and he doesn't want the snack Mary offers to make him. Patrick is growing more tense with the ticking of the clock.

Finally, Patrick tells Mary he's leaving her, but he'll take care of her and the baby monetarily. Mary can't even begin to understand what Patrick has told her. Her actions after that reflect the routine she has followed each day of taking something out of the freezer to cook for her husband.

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Before the husband's news in "Lamb to the Slaughter," what three clues suggest a break with routine?

Three clues:

1.  Patrick Maloney drains his first drink in one gulp which the wife notes as unusual.

2.   He refuses to allow her to get him another drink (he makes a very strong 2nd drink for himself) or anything to eat.

3.  When she gets up to get a snack for him, he commands her to sit down - the text said this action made her afraid.

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Name three clues indicating a break with routine in "Lamb to the Slaughter" before the news.

The first clue that this particular evening was going to be a break with routine was the husband's behavior with his drink.  It was not uncommon for him to be silent as he unwound while enjoying his first drink after returning home from work, but tonight, "he did an unusual thing...he lifted his glass and drained it in one swallow".  Then, after pausing for a moment, he "got up and went slowly over to fetch himself another", which Mary Maloney noticed immediately "was dark amber with the quantity of whiskey in it".

Mary, trying to figure out what was bothering her husband, then solicitously offered to fix him something to eat.  Her kind suggestion, however, was rebuffed with an uncharacteristically curt response, "No...I don't want it". 

Becoming uneasy, Mary, "her large eyes...watching his face", exclaimed to her husband, "But you must eat...I'll fix (something) anyway, and then you can have it or not, as you like".  The husband's response to his wife's gentle insistence was abrupt to the point of rudeness, an attitude which was in stark contrast to his usual loving demeanor.  He ordered Mary to "Sit down...just for a minute, sit down".  He had something momentous to tell her, and it was evident that what he had to say was not going to be good.

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