What does “Lamb to the Slaughter” mean?

The main idea of Roald Dahl’s scary short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” is that you shouldn’t underestimate people who seem weak, and that people who seem innocent aren’t always what they seem to be. Even though Patrick might have deserved what he got, this story is about how people miss Mary’s potential until it’s too late.

In the story “Lamb to the Slaughter,” there are many ways in which people underestimate what will happen. The first time is when Patrick comes home and tells Mary that he is leaving her.

He knows that she is pregnant, but he just tells her that it is important to be calm and reasonable about the divorce and that he will send her some money to help her take care of the baby. When she tells him he can’t go, he finally snaps at her, “Try to stop me!” Mary kills him with a leg of frozen lamb.

Patrick is a police detective, and when his coworkers come to investigate the crime, they don’t even think of Mary as a suspect, even though statistics show that spouses are often one of the most common killers.

As the hungry police officers eat the leg of lamb that was still in the oven, they don’t even think about it being the weapon, even though it would have been the perfect size and shape (when frozen).

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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