Roald Dahl’s short story “Lamb to The Slaughter” was first published in Harper’s Magazine in 1953 after being rejected by The New Yorker. It depicts the story of a woman who conducts cold-blooded murder and then gets away with it by erasing the evidence in ingenious ways.
The story portrays Roald Dahl’s love for horror with little grain of spices of Dark Comedy. By the word, “Lamb” Dahl symbolized the sacrifice of the weak for the benefit of any individual and in the story, the word directly symbolizes the character, Mary Maloney.
In the later part of the article, you will find a brief summary of the story.
Lamb to the Slaughter PDFLamb to the Slaughter
|Original Title||Lamb to The Slaughter|
|Genre||Fiction, Short story|
|Pages||Hardcover, 32 pages|
|First Published||September 1953|
Summary of the story
Mary Maloney, a devoted housewife, and a loving wife. Married with a detective, Patrick. She is very much content in her marriage. She cares for her home and her husband very much. Mary is heavily pregnant with their first child.
On a fateful day, Patrick, Mary’s husband, returns home from work and starts to act strangely aloof. Mary assumes that work has taken a toll on her husband and doesn’t take his behavior seriously. Drinking more than usual, Patrick tells Mary that he wishes for divorce leaving Mary stunned. Then she goes to the deep freezer to get a leg of lamb for dinner.
Bursting out of rage, Patrick tells her not to make dinner for him as he is going out and he starts to prepare for going out. Mary demands that he cannot go and her husband tells her that she should try and stop him. While Patrick was looking through the window, Mary hit him with a fatal blow to the head by the leg of the lamb that leads him to instant death.
Being the wife of a detective, Mary knew very well that what are the consequences of murder. So, she starts to think about her unborn child’s future and begins to form a plan to erase the evidence. She starts by cooking the lamb’s leg that she used as a weapon. She decides to create an alibi as a final touch to her plan. Then she walks to the supermarket and talks to the cashier about what she should make for Patrick for supper.
She acts surprised by her husband’s death upon returning home from the store and calls the police. The police cut Mary from the suspect list immediately and they believe that Patrick was killed with a blow from a blunt object by an intruder. They suspect the murder weapon was something made out of metal. They scour the surrounding area but don’t find anything.
Meanwhile, the leg of the lamb is prepared and Mary invites the police officers by telling them that it is already past dinner time. Mary doesn’t partake in the dinner but seats nearby while the officers eat. The police officers discuss the murder weapon as they eat and suspect that the murder weapon might be right under their noses. Mary giggles.
The story was adapted in an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (AHP) which has been ranked 59 among the top 100 episodes by TV Guide in 2009 that originally broadcasted on April 13, 1958.
It was also adapted to the British Tv Series named Tales of the unexpected by the writer himself, and later, Dahl included this story in his short story compilation “Someone Like You”.
The concept of eating evidence by the police officers was adapted in the film “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” in 1984. In 2021, the Bollywood film “Haseen Dillruba” adapted a major part of the story.
This suspenseful and eerie short story shows us that our notion of the judgment of any individual or situation is pre convinced. And that pre convinced notion makes us put on a blindfold to the true nature of any individual or situation.
This mesmerizing work of fiction will leave you stunned. So, without any hesitation, I will recommend the book to anyone who loves quality murder stories.