Irony in Lamb to the Slaughter

‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is a short but thrilling story with an ironic ending written by Roald Dahl. An analysis of the story will reveal what makes the story so effective. The author of Lamb to the Slaughter, although the situation is unimaginable, he somehow manages to make the theme relate to readers. Roald Dahl, the author of Lamb to the Slaughter, uses descriptive language to demonstrate how Mary felt when the murder of her husband took place.

For instance, the title itself uses a metaphor. He depicts emotions that are usually felt but through words with ease. The title Lamb to the Slaughter illustrates how an innocent being could undergo such a disastrous fate. Not only that, but it portrays the betrayal Mary had felt when Patrick, the husband, announced he wanted a divorce. At the start of the story we find Mrs. Maloney waiting, sitting content in her warm and cozy chair, the house is “Warm and clean, the curtains are drawn and the two table lamps alight.” Dahl sets an almost normal and nice home atmosphere, an ideal home for Mr. Maloney to come home to.

Dahl creates this atmosphere to trick us into thinking that nothing bad is going to happen, hence the title. This homely atmosphere almost makes the reader feel welcomed in the Maloney household. Overall, this atmosphere is one of the key things that makes this story effective.  After finding out that her husband is leaving her, Mary Maloney kills her husband, Patrick Maloney with a frozen leg of lamb. Through lying to the police and the police believing her innocence, Mary manages to get away with murder and even get the police to eat the leg of lamb.


Dahl portrays Mary Maloney as a typical housewife, dutiful and meek. She has a calm, slow smiling air about her. She is six months pregnant and has a soft mouth, translucent skin, and large eyes. She is madly in love with her husband and would do anything to please him. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that her husband Patrick does not share the same feelings for her. This is the main reason why Mary turns from a loving, loyal housewife to a devious, manipulative murderer. Dahl portrays Patrick Maloney as your classic working man, the provider of the family. Patrick was a police detective who cared more about his job than his wife. “It wouldn’t be very good for my job. Despite Mary’s best effort to make him content and care for him, he does not appreciate her actions. He was a quintessential fifties husband. The portrayal of Mary and Patrick are another thing that makes the story.

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