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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Student Question

What does Mary's list of things she loves about her husband reveal about their relationship?

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In the eighth paragraph of the story, Dahl describes what Mary loves about her husband:

For her, this was always a blissful time of day. She knew he didn’t want to speak much until the first drink was finished, and she, on her side, was content to sit quietly, enjoying his company after the long hours alone in the house. She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel—almost as a sunbather feels the sun—that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together. She loved him for the way he sat loosely in a chair, for the way he came in a door, or moved slowly across the room with long strides. She loved the intent, far look in his eyes when they rested on her, the funny shape of the mouth, and especially the way he remained silent about his tiredness, sitting still with himself until the whisky had taken some of it away

First, Mary comments on the idea that she enjoys Patrick's company simply because he is another person in the house with her after being alone all day. The couple do not yet have children (though Mary is 6 months pregnant with their first).  Second, Mary seems to enjoy Patrick's "maleness": she comments on how he sits, how he moves, how he drinks his whiskey at the end of the day.  

What is missing from these descriptions is any sort of passion that a modern audience would want to see in their relationship.  There is contentment, a sort of settled atmosphere, about their relationship.  Mary loves the routine of their relationship, as Dahl describes that she watches the clock for him to return from work: "Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time when he could come."  His punctuality makes him desirable to Mary because she can count on him.  This reason is perhaps why she is most distraught at the news he tells her on this particular evening; the thought that he is cheating on her is not within her routine, not within the reliability she has with Patrick.  He ruins all the comfort she had gained from this relationship.

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