Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter

A story about the clueless “lamb” and the “murderous ham”

Written by: Brandon Hong


Before Roald Dahl wrote some of the greatest children’s stories of the 20th century, he primarily wrote short stories. In 1942, after finding marginal success with his first children’s book, The Gremlin, he began to write short stories for adults. Oddly enough, a talented writer such as Dahl had a few of his stories rejected by the New Yorker. One of the stories was “Lamb to the Slaughter”.

Lamb to the Slaughter is a story revolving around Mary Maloney, a loving wife married to a detective named Patrick. Patrick reveals to Mary that he is going to leave her. She looks oddly calm, especially for someone holding back a surprise. Dahl never blatantly reveals Mary Maloney’s emotions nor her thoughts. Roald Dahl’s story “Lamb to the Slaughter” utilizes the method of unraveling every fine detail of the story to enthrall the reader.

Towards the beginning of the story, we learn that “each minute gone by made it nearer the time he [Patrick] would come [home]” (1). Dahl proceeds to slowly, but surely unwind the rest of the story. Roald Dahl makes sure not to leave out anything by describing exactly what Patrick does when he gets home and their dialogue. This sets up the pace of the story, which effectively works to create an enhanced and impactful climax.

Mary Maloney is a character that “Dahl painted as  a doting, overly-concerned, rather weak-minded character” (Roshan, page 2). However, this is not the case. By unraveling every small detail before Patrick decides to tell her he’s leaving her, Dahl sets up an unexpected climax where “[she] brought it [the leg of lamb] down as hard as she could…” (3). This pacing should either captivate the reader or they will find the entire story excruciating.

To conclude, the short story is one that I would personally recommend. Identity was a prevalent theme that stuck with me. Mary turned out to be a brutal and calculating personality under her reserved and spineless exterior. It’s quite interesting to connect that reoccurring theme back to reality where everybody has layers of their true selves. We judge people based on their appearance, even though we do not know them. If you find yourself intrigued by the dark humour, the interesting connections to reality, and even the steady pace of the story, “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl should be a fascinating experience.


















Bibliography Editors. “Roald Dahl.”, A&E Networks Television, 9 Sept. 2016,

Gale, Thomson. “Roald Dahl Biography | Author of Lamb to the Slaughter.” Book Rags, BookRags,

P., Roshan. “Lamb to the Slaughter-Critical Summary | Irony | Narration.” Scribd, Roshan P.,



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