Critical Analysis of “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl

Marriage is a disaster when disloyalty leads to the powers of betrayal. “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl begins with an aging husband, Patrick Malony who unexpectedly informs his wife, Mary that he is leaving her, giving him initial power. Patrick’s disclosure provokes a six-month pregnant Mary to react by murdering him with a lethal leg of lamb. As a result of Patrick’s betrayal, Mary no longer feels powerless towards him because now she establishes control by betraying the marriage. Here, the most important theme that stood out to me was not only the idea of betrayal, but also how betrayal can be a reciprocal event leading to a “perfect crime scenario”. For example, when the husband betrayed the marriage, it prompted a transfer of power to Mary. The piece of lamb symbolizes a hidden innocent object that plays a key role in the deception of Patrick’s murder. As “a wife of a detective”, Mary exhibits the skills of a composed and methodical mindset when she practices her dialogue to the butcher in front of the mirror and later has an alibi from her visit to the butcher. Another important factor that caused betrayal in their marriage was the lack of communication. In the beginning of the story, Mary says “hello darling” and Patrick replies with a curt “hello”. This indicates an unhealthy relationship because no additional dialogue ensues. In addition, Mary is always initiating the conversation with Patrick, while Patrick shows displeasure, which implies a struggling relationship. We can consider that Mary is a dynamic character that undergoes a significant change in attitude. Overall, Mary arises from a submissive, domestic housewife to a protector of her child.

 

Mary wielding the lethal leg of lamb that took Patrick's soul.
Mary wielding the lethal leg of lamb that took Patrick’s soul.

 

Works Cited

Dahl, Roald. “Lamb to the Slaughter.” Harper’s Magazine, 1 Sept. 1953

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