“Lamb to the Slaughter” is a story written by British novelist Roald Dahl and published in the book Someone LikeYou in the Collective stories of Roald Dahl, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 1991. The story showcases great use of irony and reflects the sudden change that happens in human behaviour according to their changing circumstances.

Lamb To The Slaughter Summary:

The story is about Mrs.Mary Maloney and her husband Mr.Patrick Maloney. On hearing the words that Patrick is going to leave her by the mouth of Patrick, Mrs.Maloney goes ut of control and ends up killing him. Here the term “Lamb to the Slaughter” means the killing of an innocent, who is Patrick here.

Patrick’s Murder

Lamb To The Slaughter Summary: Mrs.Maloney, is six months pregnant and loves her husband very much. Her husband, Patrick is a detective and just like her daily routine, she’s waiting for him, sitting on her chair, sewing. As Patrick arrives, she offers him some whisky and takes little for herself. She finds that Patrick is acting strangely and is drinking heavier than usual. His glass had more whisky than soda and was visible floating on the top of his drink.

Maloney thinks that Patrick is tired, she asks him some crackers and supper. Usually, they dine out on Thursday nights that day it was not the case. Patrick stops Mrs.Maloney and tells her the bitter truth that he’s going to leave her. For a few time, she cannot believe it and thinks she had just imagined it. She moves to the cellar to find something for the supper and takes out a big leg of lamb. While moving to the kitchen she sees Patrick standing in the hall telling her to not to cook supper for him but suddenly Mrs.Maloney flings the lamb on the back of his head and kills him.

Lamb To The Slaughter Summary - lamb to the slaughter art

Notice that in the story the leg of lamb has been compared to a steel club which shows how heavy that leg really would have been.

After getting the blow, Patrick still remains standing for a few seconds and then falls down and dies.

Mrs.Maloney’s Decieving

Lamb To The Slaughter Summary: After killing Patrick, Mrs.Maloney keeps staring his body with the lamb still in his hands. As being a detective’s wife, she knew what punishment she might be facing but she didn’t know that will the punishment be same for her unborn child. Therefore, she tries to act normally and keeps the lamb in the oven for cooking and rushes to her room for practicing. She rehearses her smiles and dialogues to buy some vegetables from the nearby grocer, Sam.

She goes to Sam from the back door and acts naturally. After chatting sometime with him and buying cheesecake as dessert, Mrs.Maloney successfully deceives him. She returns home naturally and finds Patrick’s dead body lying on the floor at which she starts crying terribly. Her crying was also natural and not acting. She calls the police and two of Patrick’s friends, detective Jack Noonan and O’ Malley arrive. She falls straightly into the arms of Jack Noonan crying, who tries to console her.

Soonly Jack Noonan finds an injury on Patrick’s head and tells O’Malley. Later two detectives, a police photographer, a man with good knowledge of fingerprints, and a doctor also arrive. They all ask several questions to Mrs.Maloney to which she naturally replies. After confirming from the grocer Sam, the police starts thinking that Mrs.Maloney isn’t the killer and thus, is deceived.

Fifteen minutes later, two people arrive and take Patrick’s body out on a stretcher whereas all the men except the four detectives leave. Jack N00nan offers Mrs.Maloney to go to her sister’s house or to Jack’s own house where his wife would have taken care of her but she refuses and tells him that she would like to stay right where she was, on her chair. Noonan asks her whether there’s a spanner or metal vase in the house with which Patrick could’ve been killed but she sends him out in the garage telling that they might find something like that there.

Lamb to the slaughter summary - Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl | Source

Mrs.Maloney figures out that there are more policemen surrounding her house finding the murder weapon. She is able to hear their footsteps in the garden and see a flash through the curtain. Acting again, she asks Noonan to give her some whisky and offers him some too. At first, Noonan refuses but takes it to keep him working. A few minutes later, all the policemen enter and take the whisky while saying good words to console Mrs. Maloney. Somehow, Mrs.Maloney makes the policemen to have the lamb she kept in the oven as hospitality.

She tells them that as they all are good friends of his late husband Patrick Maloney, he wouldn’t have liked it if they all have returned without receiving proper hospitality. She again offers them the lamb as a favour to her and the policeman agrees to eat it.

The Irony

As all the policemen enter the kitchen to help themselves with the lamb, Mrs.Maloney is able to hear them saying foolish words like – the weapon is right under there noses. The irony here is that the policemen are saying that the weapon is on the premises and under their noses whereas they don’t know that the piece of lamb they are eating is actually the weapon they all are finding.

The story ends with Mrs.Maloney’s giggling.

Lamb To The Slaughter Summary: Question and Answers

Q: How do you think Mrs. Maloney would have behaved if she wasn’t pregnant?

In the story “Lamb to the Slaughter” written by British novelist Roald Dahl, Mrs.Maloney is a housewife who loves her husband very much but kills him after knowing he’s going to leaving her. Normally, every criminal wants to escape from his punishment and so Mrs.Maloney also wanted but if she hadn’t been pregnant then she might have thought of accepting her punishment but again she was a detective’s wife and was clever, so she could have also tried of escaping.

Q: Explain the title “Lamb To The Slaughter”.

A: The words “Lamb to the Slaughter” have been used in the Bible as quotes but in Roald Dahl’s story, these words literally mean that the weapon which was used to kill Patrick Maloney was a lamb and it also refers to Patrick Maloney as a lamb. The quote means the slaughter of an innocent and here that innocent person is Patrick Maloney who says the harsh words to his wife Mrs.Maloney even after knowing the circumstances and dies due to his own foolishness.

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