Roald Dahl’s Lamb to The Slaughter: Literary Analysis

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About this sample


Words: 1033 |

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6 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

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Words: 1033|Page: 1|6 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

Roald Dahl’s Lamb to The Slaughter: Literary Analysis
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Jonathan Swift employs satire as a provocative means to address pressing issues in his native Ireland. In his renowned work, "A Modest Proposal," Swift proposes the unthinkable—cannibalism—to draw attention to Ireland's dire circumstances. He underscores the overarching problem: British oppression and the ineffectiveness of both nobility and commoners in resisting it.

Swift perceives the commoners as victims of extreme poverty and heavy taxation, leaving them incapable of engaging in political or social change. Their focus remains on basic survival, given their dire living conditions.

Blame falls heavily on the nobility, seen as complacent in perpetuating British dominance due to incompetence and a fear of losing their privileged positions. Their resistance to new ideas and reluctance to challenge the status quo frustrate Swift, prompting his satirical approach to gain their attention. This inaction stems from a lack of faith in innovative solutions and the fear that confronting the British might jeopardize their power and privileges.

Swift underscores that the failure of both commoners and nobility to unite weakens Ireland, emphasizing that shocking proposals are necessary to capture the attention of those in power and effect change in a nation ensnared by British rule.

Table of contents

  1. Good Hook Examples for "Lamb to the Slaughter" Essay
  2. "Lamb to the Slaughter" Essay Example
  3. "Lamb to the Slaughter": Analysis of Marital Relationship
    Works Cited

Good Hook Examples for "Lamb to the Slaughter" Essay

  • A Twist in Every Bite: Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter" serves up a deliciously dark narrative, leaving readers hungry for more than just answers. Join us as we sink our teeth into this tantalizing tale of deception and retribution.
  • Mary Maloney: Culinary Genius or Calculated Killer? Within the pages of "Lamb to the Slaughter," Roald Dahl crafts a character as complex as any gourmet dish. Explore the layers of Mary Maloney's character as we unravel the recipe for her shocking transformation.
  • Dahl's Recipe for Suspense: In "Lamb to the Slaughter," Dahl blends elements of suspense and dark humor to create a literary dish unlike any other. Savor the flavors of this narrative as we dissect the ingredients that make it so tantalizing.
  • Behind Closed Curtains: Unmasking Dahl's Domestic Noir Join us as we venture into the seemingly ordinary household of Mary and Patrick Maloney. "Lamb to the Slaughter" peels back the curtains on domesticity to reveal the shocking secrets lurking within.
  • From Housewife to Homicide: Mary Maloney's Transformation Roald Dahl's portrayal of Mary Maloney challenges traditional gender roles and expectations. In this essay, we'll explore how her character evolves from a devoted housewife to an unexpected criminal mastermind.

"Lamb to the Slaughter" Essay Example

Roald Dahl stands as a renowned British author, celebrated for his numerous novels and short stories. Among his compelling short stories lies the darkly humorous narrative, "Lamb to the Slaughter." This tale delves into the life of a woman ensnared in an almost suffocating marriage. Upon learning of her husband's intent to abandon her, she orchestrates a successful murder plot, leaving behind no trace of incriminating evidence for the authorities. Through the intricate portrayal and reversal of expected gender roles, "Lamb to the Slaughter" offers a poignant depiction of a woman's triumphant escape from her oppressive marital bonds and the societal conventions that ensnared her.

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"Lamb to the Slaughter": Analysis of Marital Relationship

The story commences by establishing the domestic milieu, showcasing the roles that Mary Maloney and her husband dutifully inhabit within their marriage. We encounter a pregnant Mary awaiting her husband's return home, ardently embracing her role as a devoted and affectionate spouse. She appears content, finding fulfillment in the expected duties bestowed upon her. As her husband arrives, the couple adheres to the conventions of their era, with Mary endeavoring to cater to his happiness by offering assistance and diligently attending to his needs. She seems entirely at ease with her role, epitomizing the archetype of an obedient wife. Mary's own words affirm her satisfaction, expressing, "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." Conversely, her husband adopts an air of entitlement, failing to accord her the respect she deserves—a behavior typical of the gender dynamics prevalent in relationships during that period. This swift and seamless assimilation into their prescribed roles serves as a stark contrast to the later events of the story, underscoring the unexpected twist that awaits.

The reversal of roles and Mary Maloney's triumphant transformation ensues following her discovery of her husband's intention to abandon her. As she sets out to prepare dinner, an abrupt and unforeseen act transpires as she murders her husband with a frozen leg of lamb. In an instant, Patrick Maloney transitions from the role of the dominant, successful yet inconsiderate husband to that of the victim, while Mary evolves from a submissive wife into a perpetrator. However, instead of succumbing to panic, Mary wholeheartedly embraces this role reversal. Upon the arrival of the police and her subsequent adept concealment of evidence, a comparison can be drawn to the story's commencement. The way the policemen treat Mary echoes the dynamics from the story's outset. Though some condescension is evident, they extend offers of refreshments and assistance to appease her. In this scenario, Mary assumes control, a stark contrast to the initial state of her relationship in which her husband held sway. These interpersonal dynamics, from Mary's relationship with her husband to her interactions with the policemen, serve as a testament to her successful evasion of the societal roles imposed upon her.

The title, "Lamb to the Slaughter," symbolizes the vulnerability and naivety of a seemingly innocent party unwittingly led to their demise. Initially, Mary Maloney appears to embody the lamb — a gentle, unsuspecting figure. When Patrick discloses his decision to leave, it is easy to assume that she has been metaphorically led to her "death." However, Mary defies expectations by remaining in control of her emotions and actions. She takes the reins of her fate and, with calculated intent, "walks up behind him… swings the big frozen leg of lamb… and brings it down as hard as she could on the back of his head." In a swift twist, Patrick becomes the metaphorical lamb, and Mary enacts the "slaughter."

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In essence, "Lamb to the Slaughter" is a short story penned by Roald Dahl, chronicling the transformation of a conventional marital relationship marred by the husband's decision to abandon his wife. Mary Maloney initially assumes the role of a submissive spouse, only to metamorphose into a mastermind behind her husband's murder. The narrative explores the theme of role reversal, illustrating how Mary escapes the confines of her predetermined societal role, albeit through a gruesome act of violence.

Works Cited

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  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Institute of Medicine.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Roald Dahl’s Lamb to The Slaughter: Literary Analysis. (2022, April 22). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“Roald Dahl’s Lamb to The Slaughter: Literary Analysis.” GradesFixer, 22 Apr. 2022,
Roald Dahl’s Lamb to The Slaughter: Literary Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2023].
Roald Dahl’s Lamb to The Slaughter: Literary Analysis [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 22 [cited 2023 Dec 2]. Available from:
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