Theme of Irony in Lamb to The Slaughter by Roald Dahl

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Words: 325 |

Page: 1|

2 min read

Published: Oct 31, 2018

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Words: 325|Page: 1|2 min read

Published: Oct 31, 2018

Theme of Irony in Lamb to The Slaughter by Roald Dahl
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The essay analyzes Roald Dahl's short story "Lamb to the Slaughter" and focuses on the prominent use of irony throughout the narrative. The story begins with Mary Maloney being portrayed as a loving and kind wife, who greets her husband warmly when he returns home from work. However, when her husband reveals his intention to break up with her, she suddenly and unexpectedly kills him with a frozen leg of lamb. This twist in the story is an example of situational irony, where the outcome is the opposite of what is expected.

The essay also highlights another form of irony, namely dramatic irony. After the murder, Mary calls the police and asks them to eat the leg of lamb, claiming it would be a favor to her. The audience knows that the lamb was the murder weapon, but the policemen remain oblivious to this fact. This creates a sense of dramatic irony as the characters' lack of awareness contrasts with the reader's knowledge.

Table of contents

  1. Prompt Examples for the "Lamb to the Slaughter" Essays
  2. Lamb to the Slaughter Essay Example
  3. Works Cited

Prompt Examples for the "Lamb to the Slaughter" Essays

  • The Power of Irony:
    Analyze the role of irony in "Lamb to the Slaughter" and its impact on the story's development and reader's perception.
  • Mary Maloney's Transformation:
    Explore how Mary Maloney's character evolves from a loving wife to a cunning murderer, and examine the irony inherent in her actions.
  • Deception and Dramatic Irony:
    Discuss the theme of deception in the story and how it is intertwined with dramatic irony, especially in Mary's interactions with the police.
  • Gender Roles and Subversion:
    Analyze the portrayal of gender roles in "Lamb to the Slaughter" and how Mary Maloney's actions may subvert or reinforce traditional gender expectations, considering the story's ironic elements.
  • Unearthing Hidden Irony:
    Identify and discuss instances of subtle or less obvious irony in the story, exploring how these concealed ironic elements enrich the narrative and its underlying themes.

Lamb to the Slaughter Essay Example

In the short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl, irony is shown blatantly throughout the story, and most don’t even notice it. For example, when her husband comes home from work every day, Mary Maloney is a very kind and loving wife. She kisses him as he walks through the door, she takes his coat, and even makes him a drink when he sits in his chair. However, after being told about a proposed break-up, she grabs a frozen leg of lamb and “walks up behind her husband and without any pause she swings the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brings it down as hard as she can on the back of his head.” (3) This shows an example of situational irony, as it has to do with an event happening that is the opposite of what is expected. The audience would typically think that, after an experience like that, would just cry or ask for the reason behind the break-up. Obviously, that is not what happens, as we find out that she murders her husband. After she calls the police about her husband’s death, Mary is being very clever, and acts as if she has no idea of what killed her husband.

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Later, Mrs. Maloney even “begs the police to eat the leg of lamb saying, ‘It’d be a favor to me if you’d eat it up.’” (2) This shows an example of dramatic irony, as the audience knows that the lamb was murder weapon, but the characters don’t. The policemen think that she wants them to eat it because nobody else will eat it, but she really just wants them to eat it so that they will never be able to find the murder weapon. These are just two examples of irony that are easily found in the story, but there are many more that are not hard to find.

Works Cited

  1. Bloom, H. (2005). Roald Dahl. Infobase Publishing.
  2. Dahl, R. (1953). Lamb to the Slaughter. The New Yorker, 29(48), 30-35.
  3. Hansen, T. (1996). Irony and the Short Fiction of Roald Dahl. Journal of Popular Culture, 30(1), 137-144.
  4. Kehlmann, D. (2006). The Subversive Roald Dahl: A Linguistic Analysis of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. Children's Literature in Education, 37(3), 235-250.
  5. Kim, J. (2013). Roald Dahl’s Use of Irony in Matilda. The Journal of Children’s Literature Studies, 10(2), 22-34.
  6. Keen, S. (2002). Irony and Ambiguity in Roald Dahl’s Short Stories. Children's Literature in Education, 33(1), 45-57.
  7. Lanters, J. (2009). ‘Something to Sink Your Teeth into’: Cannibalism and Abjection in Roald Dahl’s ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’. Studies in Short Fiction, 46(1), 63-79.
  8. Mendoza, S. (2018). The Expression of Irony and Black Humor in Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter”. English Studies, 99(1), 30-44.
  9. Parsons, S. J. (2012). Irony and the Absurd in Roald Dahl’s Fiction. The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 32(3), 69-79.
  10. Ziegler, J. (2001). Roald Dahl. Twayne Publishers.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Theme of Irony in Lamb to The Slaughter by Roald Dahl. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Theme of Irony in Lamb to The Slaughter by Roald Dahl.” GradesFixer, 26 Oct. 2018,
Theme of Irony in Lamb to The Slaughter by Roald Dahl. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jul. 2024].
Theme of Irony in Lamb to The Slaughter by Roald Dahl [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Oct 26 [cited 2024 Jul 17]. Available from:
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