Lamb to the slaughter - Roald Dahl

Genre – short story, full of situational and dramatic irony. In my opinion, it is on one hand dramatic and on the other comical.


Mary Maloney – round character, protagonist – the wife of detective. Although we do not know very much about her we can deduct enough about her previous style of life from the short setting. This would also foretell something about her unpredictable behaviour, which could occur in unforeseen situations.

Patrick Maloney – her husband, flat character, senior policeman, doing his everyday routine: work, home, whisky. On Thursday somewhere out.

Stereotype characters – Sam, the shopkeeper, policemen in the house (Nooman, O’Malley and others)

Setting – manufactured – house. The setting is created realistic, underlining the character of the lonely housewife expecting her husband. Too calm setting invokes images of unnatural situation (probably bad new her husband may have had been made redundant).

Idea or theme – Love and hate

Loving housewife kills her husband ass soon as she realizes he wants to leave her (opposition of her strong feelings)

Conflict – P. Maloney wants to leave his wife (as he went further and further away from her with each word)

  1. Exposition – description of their everyday life

  2. Complication – he wants to leave her (it wouldn’t be very good for my job)

  3. Crisis – she kills him

  4. Climax – she manages how to escape penalty (decides to buy some potatoes – evidence etc)

  5. Resolution – lamb, the evidence is eaten up by police – situational irony – wise police is cheated by housewife

Plot and structure

Story is in chronological order. Setting, complication, crisis, climax, resolution. Wife kills her husband.

Mary Maloney, a housewife expecting a baby who is loving and waiting every day for her husband at home, suddenly changes under unexpected situation into slaughter, kills her husband, who is senior policeman, makes up her mind, how to escape penalty, and cheats whole police successfully.

Point of view - 3rd person – camera eye- only facts are introduced, nothing more

Style – middle/neutral, everyday English

Tone – irony situational and dramatic. Police is defeated. Dramatic normally I would expect the wife would be sentenced to prison.

Symbol – Police – universal symbol order and justice. Lamb – private symbol of death.