A Tale of Deception

Critical Analysis of Theme

“Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl is a short story about a woman by the name of Mary Maloney, who is married to her husband Patrick Maloney, a police officer. Mary is characterized to be the stereotypical 1950’s housewife, as she stays at home, makes food for her husband, is always respectful, and cares very much for her husband. However, the plot quickly takes a turn as Patrick tells Mary that he is leaving her. Patrick does not physically say this as dialogue within the story, though it is assumed by the reader that this is what he had meant. This leads Mary to kill her husband Patrick by hitting him in the head with a frozen piece of lamb and then playing it all off by visiting a local grocery store, acting surprised to the police, and feeding the investigators the lamb used to kill her husband.

The central theme developed by Dahl throughout the story is that those who may appear to be innocent may be anything but that. Mary Maloney is a housewife that is shown to be caring and respectful towards her husband, therefore no one suspects her to be the murderer. Additionally, Mary plays off the whole incident very well as she visits the grocer with a positive attitude. Though Mary is perceived by the public as a loyal housewife and an innocent widow, in reality she has a double identity which no one else is able to realize.


Dahl, Roald. “LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER-A Story.” Harper’s Magazine Sep 01 1953: 39. ProQuest. Web. 19 Feb. 2017 .

Innocent Guilty. 2015. Newson & Gapasin Attorneys At Law . Web. 19 Feb. 2017. <http://www.militarylawyer-defense.com/are-you-guilty-until-proven-innocent-in-the-military/&gt;.


Author: ssingara

I am a first year university student at Simon Fraser University in the Faculty of Business.

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