The Characters Portrayals In Lamb To The Slaughter

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The story “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl is an extremely gruesome story of Mary Maloney, who kills her own husband by hitting him with a solidified leg of lamb and after that concealing her wrongdoing and discarding the proof by cooking the lamb and feeding it to the policeman who come to examine the murder. The opening scene emphasizes both the “duality” (everything is doubled) of the setting and its emptiness. Like the Maloneys’ marriage, Mary is the only one present, despite the fact that everything around her is meant for two.

Mary’s pregnancy and sewing are examples of her domesticity, epitomizing the traditional roles of women as child-bearers and domestic servants. The narrator emphasizes her objectification by emulating a poetic convention called “blason,” in which a poet describes a woman by targeting various body parts. Mary fulfills the roles of caregiver and domestic servant through these loving gestures. The fact that Patrick does not reciprocate them highlights the power imbalance of their relationship, which also manifests in the way she prepares their drinks.

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As a housewife, Mary was expected to stay in the private sphere of domesticity while her husband goes to work; she has been home alone all day, with no one to talk to. Yet when her husband comes home, Mary is quick to accommodate her husband’s desire for silence. The power imbalance between Mary and her husband is further skewed by her view of him as almost godlike. While her husband’s masculinity is compared to the sun, Mary is a mere “sunbather,” sustained only by her relationship to her husband.

The husband’s breaking of their usual routine and decision to drink more than usual suggests that something is wrong. The husband reinforces his patriarchal power by giving Mary orders and refusing to acknowledge her efforts as his emotional caregiver. Mary’s attempt to get her husband to eat something is yet another example of her wifely duties as a caregiver. Her husband’s rejection of her food is also a rejection of her role within the marriage. As he mentally prepares himself, he looks down as if ashamed, while Mary’s focus is entirely on him, as it has been for their entire marriage.

Mary’s husband’s mention that “it’s kind of a bad time” refers to the fact that he is abandoning not only Mary but also their unborn child. In his promise to send her money and in his dismissal of her potential emotions and reactions as “fuss,” he implicitly dismisses the idea that his wife is a thinking and feeling human being. Unwilling to believe her husband’s rejection, Mary clings to her marriage by performing her usual duty of preparing dinner. Her husband, however, rejects both her meal and her.

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The Characters Portrayals In Lamb To The Slaughter. (2021, September 22). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“The Characters Portrayals In Lamb To The Slaughter.” Edubirdie, 22 Sept. 2021,
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