Short Story Analysis

"Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl

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critical biography

Roald Dahl was born September 13, 1916, in Llandaff, United Kingdom (Makman). Dahl grew up with a hard life. Although Dahl found a way to charm the people around him, he was still bullied most of his life (Makman). Later in Dahls life he enrolled in the Royal Air Force and became a fighter pilot combating against the Germans ("Roald Dahl"). Dahl's plane was shot out of the sky, and he sustained injuries that rendered him unable to fly ("RoaldDahl"). One day Roald was being interviewed by the Saturday Evening Post, but the columnist was too interested in his food to take notes for himself ("Roald Dahl"). This prompted Dahl to take notes for the journalist, who then submitted them promptly to the newspaper ("Roald Dahl). This story, entitled "Piece of Cake," became the jump start to Dahl' career and earned him a paycheck of one thousand dollars ("Roald Dahl"). Dahl had many successful stories including "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Matilda" ("Roald Dahl"). Many of Dahl's closest friends would say that Dahl portrayed himself in many of his stories both as young children and adults (Makman). Dahl passed away November 23, 1990, in Oxford, United Kingdom (Makman).


In “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl, it portrays that people are not they seem. This average woman turns out to be a cold-blooded killer. This thought that any one person can be pushed to the brink and become dark and twisted. Mary Maloney is the perpetrator in this story as she murders her husband, and hides the action in a disturbing but brilliant way. Mary hides the murder weapon, a lamb chop, by feeding it to the investigators. This story is bloody and twisted, but it also has a comical side in with the way the murder weapon was disposed of. This story is for the lovers of murder mysteries and horror thrillers.

Analysis of Theme

The theme of "Lamb to the Slaughter" is an age-old truth: the weak seem powerless, but they can rise and become more powerful than those who seem strong. In the story, the narrator makes the statement "She might as well hit him with a steel club" (Dahl). This shows that Mary put so much momentum behind her swing, that a lamb leg resembled a steel bar. Considering that Mary is a woman, and society perceives women as the weaker sex, it is surprising that she would have this much force. "She stepped back a pace, waiting, and the funny thing was that he remained standing there for at least four or five seconds, gently swaying. Then he crashed to the carpet" (Dahl). Crashing to the floor: this shows just how much force Mary had behind the swing of the lamb leg. When driven by strong anger you are capable of many things. When you are driven by anger, many things are enhanced including intelligence. When driven by anger, Mary's strength became a force to be reckoned with. As soon as Mary realized that she murdered her husband this revived intelligence allowed her to devise a plan that would ultimately get away with murder. Underestimating the weak can lead to horrible things: sooner or later they will rise and become the powerful.

Works Cited

Dahl, Roald. "Lamb to the Slaughter 1953." PDF file.

"Lamb to the Slaughter." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Willson. Vol. 4. Detroit; Gale, 1998. 126. Print.

Makman, Lisa Hermine. "Dahl, Roald (1916–1990)." British Writers: Supplement 4. Ed. George Stade and Carol Howard. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997. 201-227. Scribner Writers on GVRL. Web. 4 May 2016.

"Roald Dahl." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 May 2016.

Harley Tate

"When something goes wrong in your life just yell "Plot Twist" and move on."