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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What is the setting of "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

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The setting of "Lamb to the Slaughter" takes place primarily inside the Maloney home and likely during the early 1950s, as the story was published in 1953. Using a setting that is more or less unspecified creates a sense of familiarity for the reader, drawing them closer to the characters and implying that the story's events could take place just about anywhere.

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In a literal, physical sense, the bulk of the action in "Lamb to the Slaughter" takes place in the Maloney house. When we first meet Mary Maloney, she's waiting at home for her husband to return from work. When he does, he gives her difficult news, and she goes out to the grocer. This errand is small, but important: Mary Maloney is establishing an alibi by leaving the premises, and her interaction with Sam the grocer is crucial to her story's believability.

There is no exact location or time frame given, but we can infer from the story's publication date—1953—and the presence of an in-home freezer, uncommon until the 1940s, that it probably takes place around the year of its publication. Since this story follows what the Western world would once have considered "traditional" gender roles, and the author himself lived and worked in the United Kingdom, we can also guess—but not guarantee—that the setting might be the UK.

In another sense, the setting can be understood to be the figurative "home" of an unremarkable middle-class married couple. There's emphasis early on of the ordinariness of the day, the familiarity of the routine. This is a day like any other day, inside the perfectly average home of a perfectly average couple, which makes the ultimate turn of events all the more surprising.

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Roald Dahl’s story is set in an unremarkable middle-class 1950s apartment in an unnamed city. The action takes place in the living room and the kitchen. Although Dahl does not go overboard with descriptions, specific features in each room are important in the story. The plot revolves around the disruption of domesticity to which the protagonist, Mary Maloney, tries to cling in the face of serious upset: her husband wants a divorce. This turn of events is particularly appalling because Mary is six months pregnant.

The domestic scene is emphasized by the details the author provides. ‘‘The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn.’’ It is a well-appointed, if not luxurious, room. The author mentions such things as two matching chairs, along with the type of lamp on the table. Mary has carefully set out the glasses and whisky for the drink she will make her husband, as she always does when he gets home from work. When Patrick gets home, despite his nervous behavior, she continues to behave as on any other day.

The next parts use the setting along with Mary’s actions to highlight the irony of the situation and to suggest things may not turn out well. When Patrick informs he is leaving but insists there should not “be any fuss,” the reader would expect a severe reaction from Mary. Instead, she calmly continues to begin preparing dinner: she enters the kitchen and removes a leg of lamb from the freezer.

After the murder, Mary’s short excursion out of the apartment to the grocery store heightens the domestic aura; while there, Mary chats briefly with the grocer about the supper she will cook. The store setting is generic with no outstanding details.

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Let me begin by giving a little background info regarding this story in general.  The story is written by Roald Dahl.  He first published it in 1953 as a response to a challenge from Ian Fleming (the author of the James Bond books).   Jennet Conant's book, The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington, explains the specifics of the challenge.  Freezers had been around for decades, and by the 1950's they were quite common to have in homes.  Over dinner one night, Dahl supposedly asked Fleming what would be the best weapon that someone might have in their freezer.  Fleming's response was to suggest that Dahl write a story in which the main character commits a murder with a mutton leg. 

I can't give you a specific country, state, or city for the setting of this story, but based on the publication date and rumored inspiration of this story, I believe that it is set in the mid 1950's.  It was common for men to go to work and women to stay at home at that time in history, so the fact that Mary is dutifully waiting for her husband to get home fits the time period.  The specific place setting, while not specific to a city, is specific to the Maloney household.  The majority of the story takes place in Mary's home.  She makes a brief trip to the local grocer in order to establish her alibi, but the rest of the story takes place in various rooms of Mary's house. 

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The setting for this story is primarily in a normal middle-class home that is described as very warm and cozy. The murder takes place in the sitting room where the couple meets so that Mary can it with Patrick while he winds down for the evening with a drink.

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"Lamb to the Slaughter" is primarily set inside the home of the Maloneys. As the story opens, Mary Maloney is occupying herself while anxiously awaiting her husband's arrival. Her actions indicate that this is a typical day for her; she knows the routine well and seems to perform rather cyclical actions after Patrick arrives. The name of their town isn't mentioned, and that anonymity lends itself to the ordinary feel of this suburban, middle-class couple. They exist together in a life that is as typical as most married couples; he works as a police officer while she works to care for her husband. This feeling of being ordinary and typical makes Mary's reaction to her husband's news even more shocking to readers.

The story was written in 1953, and there are several details that place the action around this same time period. You might note, for example, that Mary Maloney has a freezer for her leg of lamb, and this wasn't common in households until sometime in the 1940s. In this context, Mary Maloney's role as a wife is one of the only opportunities available to her, and she is determined to serve her husband well—until he completely dismisses those efforts.

The setting plays a crucial role in developing several themes of the short story, establishing the conflict between Mary Maloney and Patrick which will end with one fatal blow.

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What is the setting of the story in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

Roald Dahl does not give an exact time and place for his short story "Lamb of Slaughter." In this short story, Mary Maloney takes a frozen lamb's leg and hits her husband with it over the head, which kills him. She goes to the grocery store for an alibi, then calls the police after returning home. As they are analyzing the crime scene, she invites them to stay for dinner, where she serves the murder weapon. Although most of the action does occur in the Maloney household, we are not sure where the Maloney's reside. Dahl likely left the setting unclear so the story is more universal for this audience to relate to, no matter where they are from. This short story was published in America in the 1950s, so the setting is likely around that time.

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What is the setting of the story in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

There is no indication to the exact location (as in city or even country) that the story is set.  However, knowing that the author, Roald Dahl, is British, and with the word "Hullo" used instead of "Hello," the reader gets the feel that this story is set in a small town in England.  It is such a small town that Mary knows the grocer, Sam, by name, and can walk there from her house.  She also seems to know the detectives who come to investigate the death of her husband.  Setting also includes time, but there is also no indication as to the year when this story took place; there is a mention of a car, so it must be set in modern times at least.

One could also say that the setting is simply the Maloney house, since Patrick's death occurs there as does most of the action of the story.  The only time that the action occurs outside of the house is when Mary goes to the grocer to set up her alibi.

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What is the setting of “Lamb to the Slaughter”?Anything, such as the time, the place or whatever.

It is significant that Mary is expecting a baby because the story takes place during the so-called Baby Boom. The United States Census Bureau defines the Baby Boom as the period between 1946 and 1964. It was a period of great prosperity because Americans were on a buying binge after World War II ended in 1945. Millions of men were discharged from the armed forces and the majority of them wanted homes and families. One of the consumer items that was extremely popular for a short time, coinciding with the Baby Boom, was big home freezers which looked like huge white coffins and were usually kept out in the garage. People bought them because they thought they could save money through buying large quantities of meat at wholesale prices. The popularity of big home freezers probably ended with the end of the Baby Boom.

There were several drawbacks to home freezers. One was that there could be power failures and an entire freezer full of steaks, roasts, chops, etc., might have to be thrown out. Besides that, the freezer used a lot of electricity, since the meat had to be kept frozen twenty-four hours a day for 365 days of the year. The cost of electricity detracted from the savings supposedly resulting from buying in quantity. There was also some doubt about the taste of meat that has been frozen for a long period of time. This doubt is discussed by Mary and the grocer in Dahl's story. It seems reasonable to assume that a steak or roast that had been kept frozen for many months would be tougher and would not taste as good as one that was more fresh. Furthermore, a big cut of meat had to be thawed out for a long time, which was inconvenient. If a housewife wanted to cook a leg of lamb, she would typically have to let it thaw out on the kitchen drainboard for one day and night in order to cook it the following day to be eaten for dinner that night. Manufacturers began introducing gigantic refrigerators with extra-large freezer compartments on top, and these became the standard appliance for most households because they are more "user-friendly." 

Mary can only cook her leg of lamb in a big hurry because she turns the oven on at the top temperature. The detectives take an inordinately long time searching the house. Otherwise there was no way they would be able to eat the murder weapon in the time frame involved. This is a weak point in the plot. A police team ought to be able to search a suburban house thoroughly in an hour or less. It is hard to imagine what they could have been doing for such a long time. Anyway, the story was originally published in Harper's Magazine in 1953 during the America's great Baby Boom, and it is safe to assume that the time in the story was approximately 1953. It has an historical interest as well as a literary one because it depicts life in America during the consumer boom and the Baby Boom. It was a time when the husbands were the breadwinners and the wives were housewives and mothers who did the cleaning, shopping and cooking. Perhaps Mary's perfect crime could be read as an early blow for militant feminism. Her unborn baby would be about sixty years old by now.

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What is the setting of “Lamb to the Slaughter”?Anything, such as the time, the place or whatever.

This question has already been asked and answered many times here on eNotes.  Here is a comprehensive link for you:  http://www.enotes.com/lamb-slaughter/q-and-a/tags/setting

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What is the setting of “Lamb to the Slaughter”?Anything, such as the time, the place or whatever.

In “Lamb to the Slaughter,” Roald Dahl does not give an exact time and place that the story is set in.  However, he does this deliberately, giving it a universal setting of the time in which the story was published: America in the 1950’s.

The opening scene of Mary Malony, six months pregnant, waiting in the living room for her husband to come home from work represented the typical home life of any married couple in the 1950’s living in suburban America.  Mary is described as almost the “perfect” housewife, and the reader assumes that she and her husband have the “perfect” life.

At least, that what Mary thinks, and as the story unfolds we find out it isn’t; however, at the end of the story it is back to the classic 50’s setting again, with the men all enjoying the dinner that the “perfect” wife had created.

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