Mary Maloney: a Woman Driven to Kill

download print

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 702 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 702|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Disintegration of a Marriage
  2. The Betrayal of Trust
  3. Motherly Instinct and Protection
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

In the short story "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl, the unexpected murder of Patrick Maloney by his wife, Mary Maloney, leaves readers questioning her motivations. Throughout the narrative, the author provides subtle hints that build up to this shocking act, but the ultimate question remains: why did Mary Maloney kill her husband? By examining the events leading up to the murder and analyzing Mary's character, it becomes evident that her actions were driven by a combination of desperation, betrayal, and the instinct to protect her unborn child.

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

The Disintegration of a Marriage

Before delving into the reasons behind Mary's decision to kill her husband, it is crucial to understand the state of their marriage. Dahl hints at a sense of complacency and detachment in their relationship, with Patrick's distant behavior serving as a catalyst for Mary's eventual actions. The story opens with Mary awaiting her husband's return, excitedly preparing his favorite meal. However, Patrick's unexpected announcement of leaving her instantly shatters the illusion of their seemingly happy marriage.

This revelation marks a turning point for Mary, as she transitions from a devoted and loving wife to a woman consumed by desperation. The suddenness of Patrick's decision and his lack of empathy towards her fragile emotional state instigate a series of events that lead to the murder. Mary's desperation to keep her husband at any cost is evident when she exclaims, "But you can't do that! You can't just expect me to go through with it!" (Dahl). These words reveal her fear of losing everything she holds dear and provide a glimpse into the mindset that drives her to commit such a heinous act.

The Betrayal of Trust

Another critical aspect that contributes to Mary's decision is the overwhelming sense of betrayal she experiences. Throughout the story, Dahl subtly hints at Patrick's infidelity, further deepening Mary's emotional turmoil. When Patrick reveals his intentions to leave, Mary's initial reaction is disbelief. She clings to the belief that her husband would never abandon her, leading to a confrontation where she accuses him of seeing someone else. Patrick's response, "It's not that, really. It's just that I can't bear to be in the same room as you" (Dahl), further reinforces the notion of his betrayal.

This betrayal is a powerful motivator for Mary's actions, as it amplifies her feelings of anger, hurt, and resentment. The revelation of Patrick's unfaithfulness shatters the trust she had in their marriage, leaving her with a deep sense of betrayal and a desire for revenge. Killing her husband becomes her way of reclaiming control and seeking retribution for the pain he has caused her.

Motherly Instinct and Protection

In addition to desperation and betrayal, Mary's actions can also be attributed to her instinctive need to protect her unborn child. Throughout the story, Dahl subtly emphasizes Mary's pregnancy, using it as a means to garner sympathy and highlight the vulnerability of her situation. Mary's pregnancy adds a layer of complexity to her character, as she not only seeks to avenge her own pain but also to safeguard the well-being of her child.

When Mary realizes the gravity of her actions after murdering her husband, her instinct to protect her unborn child kicks in. She understands that if she is caught, her child's future and her own freedom will be jeopardized. This realization prompts her to devise an elaborate plan to cover up the crime and manipulate the evidence, showcasing the lengths to which she is willing to go to protect her offspring.


In conclusion, the question of why Mary Maloney killed her husband in "Lamb to the Slaughter" can be answered by examining the combination of desperation, betrayal, and the instinct to protect her unborn child. Dahl skillfully weaves these elements into the story, gradually building tension and providing insight into Mary's state of mind. The disintegration of her marriage, the betrayal of trust, and her motherly instincts all contribute to her decision to commit this shocking act. "Lamb to the Slaughter" forces readers to question their assumptions about the motivations behind a crime and reminds us that even the most unexpected individuals can be driven to extreme measures when pushed to their breaking point.

Get a custom paper now from our expert writers.


Dahl, Roald. "Lamb to the Slaughter." The Complete Short Stories: Volume One, Penguin, 1992, pp. 47-56.

Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson
This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Mary Maloney: A Woman Driven to Kill. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Mary Maloney: A Woman Driven to Kill.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
Mary Maloney: A Woman Driven to Kill. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jul. 2024].
Mary Maloney: A Woman Driven to Kill [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 13 [cited 2024 Jul 17]. Available from:
Keep in mind: This sample was shared by another student.
  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours
Write my essay

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled


Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    Get Your
    Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

    We can help you get a better grade and deliver your task on time!
    • Instructions Followed To The Letter
    • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
    • Unique And Plagiarism Free
    Order your paper now