Lamb to The Slaughter: an Analysis of Mary Maloney's Character Traits

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 744 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 744|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Loyalty: Mary's Undying Devotion
  2. Adaptability: Mary's Transformation
  3. Resourcefulness: Mary's Calculated Actions
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

Mary Maloney, the protagonist in Roald Dahl's short story "Lamb To The Slaughter," is a compelling character whose traits and actions drive the narrative. Throughout the story, Mary exhibits several distinctive traits that contribute to the development of the plot and the overall message of the story. This essay will explore Mary Maloney's character traits and their implications, highlighting her transformation from a seemingly ordinary housewife to a cunning and manipulative woman. By examining her loyalty, adaptability, and resourcefulness, we can gain a deeper understanding of Mary's character and the themes of the story.

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Loyalty: Mary's Undying Devotion

One of the key character traits that defines Mary Maloney is her unwavering loyalty, particularly to her husband. From the opening lines of the story, it is clear that Mary holds a deep love and affection for Patrick Maloney. Dahl writes, "She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel—almost as a sunbather feels the sun—that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together" (Dahl, 1953). This quote highlights Mary's deep emotional connection and dependency on her husband.

However, as the story progresses, Mary's loyalty takes a dark turn. When Patrick reveals his intention to leave her, Mary's initial shock and disbelief quickly turn into a desperate desire to preserve their relationship at any cost. In a fit of rage and desperation, Mary grabs a frozen leg of lamb and strikes Patrick, killing him instantly. This act of violence demonstrates the depths of Mary's loyalty and her willingness to protect her marriage at all costs.

Mary's loyalty is further exemplified in her actions after the murder. Instead of panicking or turning herself in, she calmly devises a plan to cover up the crime. She cleverly places the lamb in the oven, ensuring that it will be cooked and eaten, effectively destroying the murder weapon. Her loyalty to Patrick drives her to protect his reputation even in death.

Adaptability: Mary's Transformation

Another significant character trait of Mary Maloney is her remarkable adaptability. When faced with adversity, Mary quickly adjusts her behavior and demeanor to suit the situation. This adaptability is evident in her interactions with the investigating police officers who arrive at her doorstep. Instead of displaying the grief and shock one might expect from a grieving widow, Mary puts on a convincing act of innocence and grief, presenting herself as a victim rather than a perpetrator.

Mary's adaptability is also apparent in her ability to think on her feet and come up with creative solutions to her problems. After the murder, she coolly conceives a plan to dispose of the murder weapon by cooking it and serving it to the very officers investigating the crime. This act not only eliminates any evidence but also serves as a testament to Mary's quick thinking and resourcefulness.

Resourcefulness: Mary's Calculated Actions

Mary Maloney's resourcefulness is another prominent trait that drives the story forward. After committing the murder, Mary's mind immediately starts working, contemplating the best course of action to avoid detection. She carefully observes the officers, noting their behavior and attitudes to gauge their suspicions.

Mary's resourcefulness is further demonstrated in her interactions with her friends and neighbors. She invites them over to her house after the murder, creating an alibi and giving the impression of a normal, grieving wife. She cleverly engages in conversation, ensuring that her behavior aligns with societal expectations. Through her resourcefulness, Mary successfully maintains her innocence and avoids suspicion.


In conclusion, Mary Maloney is a complex character with distinct traits that shape the narrative of "Lamb To The Slaughter." Her loyalty to her husband drives her to commit a heinous act, while her adaptability and resourcefulness enable her to evade detection and maintain her innocence. Mary's character serves as a reminder that appearances can be deceiving, and that loyalty can sometimes lead to unexpected consequences. By examining Mary's character traits, we gain a deeper understanding of the themes explored in the story, such as loyalty, deception, and the lengths one is willing to go to protect what they hold dear.

While Mary's actions may be morally questionable, the character's complexity adds depth and intrigue to the story, making it a compelling read. Dahl's portrayal of Mary Maloney challenges traditional gender roles and expectations, highlighting the power and resilience that can be found in unexpected places. This story serves as a cautionary tale, reminding readers of the importance of empathy and understanding in our interactions with others.

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Dahl, R. (1953). "Lamb To The Slaughter." The New Yorker.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Lamb To The Slaughter: An Analysis of Mary Maloney’s Character Traits. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Lamb To The Slaughter: An Analysis of Mary Maloney’s Character Traits.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
Lamb To The Slaughter: An Analysis of Mary Maloney’s Character Traits. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jul. 2024].
Lamb To The Slaughter: An Analysis of Mary Maloney’s Character Traits [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 13 [cited 2024 Jul 17]. Available from:
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