illustrated tablesetting with a plate containing a large lamb-leg roast resting on a puddle of blood

Lamb to the Slaughter

by Roald Dahl

Start Free Trial

Why does Mary still make supper in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

Quick answer:

Mary goes ahead and makes supper even after Patrick's death because it provides her with an alibi, and she disposes of the murder weapon by feeding it to the police. After she sees that she has killed her husband, Mary decides to make a trip to the grocery store, where other people will see her, providing her with a sound reason as to her whereabouts at the time of Patrick's death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mary Maloney has done the unthinkable because she has faced unthinkable circumstances. After eagerly awaiting her husband's return home from work, she has endured the realization that he plans to leave her. Even worse, he asks her not to make a big "fuss" about his decision, as that wouldn't be good for his job. Mary is dazed and tries to continue with their typical evening routine, insisting that she should make dinner for Patrick anyway. Her husband then insults her once more, chiding her for her efforts and telling her that he is "going out," presumably to meet the woman he is leaving her for.

This is too much. Mary takes the leg of lamb that she had planned for Patrick's dinner and swings it down on his head, killing him in a single blow. But this creates a new complication. Mary is six months pregnant and doesn't want to face the death penalty as a pregnant woman; therefore, she needs a quick alibi.

Mary goes shopping, making sure to have conversations along the way that will place her outside the home at the time of Patrick's death. She calmly purchases things she will need for dinner and then returns home with her purchases. Once there, she makes a phone call to report Patrick's death, which she claims happened while she wasn't home.

As the detectives arrive, Mary still needs to get rid of the murder weapon—that leg of lamb. So she insists on being a gracious hostess to this house full of Patrick's coworkers and prepares food for them as they complete their work. In the end, the detectives cannot find the murder weapon, because Mary has fed it to them.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why does Mary go ahead and make supper for her husband after she has killed him?

At first, the reader thinks that perhaps Mary continues with the dinner plan out of shock at the murder she has just committed.  Or perhaps she does so because she simply doesn't know what else to do.  While her crime was one of passion--she killed her husband when he said he was going to leave her, in the middle of her pregnancy--she still cried genuine tears for his death, as she knows she loved him at one time.

As the story develops, it seems Mary has a pretty good idea what she is doing. She goes to the grocery and buys extras for the dinner, including dessert, so she might be cooking the dinner anyway so that she has an alibi for the crime.  She also cooks dinner since dinner was the leg of lamb she hit her husband over the head with.  That is, she is getting rid of the murder weapon in the perfect way.  To add to the irony, the police detectives in her home eat the leg of lamb Mary has cooked, helping her to get rid of it.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on