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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I need help improving the introduction of my essay about the incorrect assumptions made about Mary Maloney in "Lamb to the Slaughter."

In “Lamb to the Slaughter” the detectives and the grocer made many incorrect assumptions about Mary Maloney. The detectives assumed that Mary could not have killed her husband, Patrick. The grocer had assumed that Mary was telling the entire truth. This resulted in Mary getting away with a murder, and a failed investigation.

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Your essay reads all right, and the points you make are valid and convincing. However, it seems to me that you have left out the most important assumptions in the story and that you could strengthen your essay by bringing them in at the end. Roald Dahl's story is based on the unique murder weapon and that the police end up eating the very weapon they are searching for. The detectives assume that Mary Maloney's husband must have been killed with a "heavy blunt instrument." Jack Noonan, one of the detectives, says:

"It's the old story. Get the weapon, and you've got the man."

This concern about the weapon is the most important element of the investigation.

Later, one of the detectives came up and sat beside her. Did she know, he asked, of anything in the house that could've been used as the weapon? Would she mind having a look around to see if anything was missing--a very big spanner, for example, or a heavy metal vase.

The fact that Mary is cooking a leg of lamb makes her seem innocent rather than guilty. She is actually cooking it to destroy the evidence. In a frozen state it is a lethal weapon. As the author states:

She might just as well have hit him with a steel club.

But she puts it into the oven while still frozen in order to soften the meat as quickly as possible. By going to the grocery store to buy some potatoes and peas, she is stalling for time, giving the lamb time enough to defrost after turning the oven "on high." She doesn't have to report her husband's death to the police until after she has been to the store and returned.

The story is heavily ironic. One ironic element that adds to the overall irony is the fact that Mary's own husband is a police detective and that her house is full of police because they are naturally concerned about the murder of "one of their own." It is because of her close association with the police that she can invite them to have her leg of lamb for dinner and they will accept. This is unusual behavior for policemen, and they are only doing it because the author has established that Mary, as a cop's wife, is also "one of their own."

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