[The Storied Life Challenge] Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

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*See details for The Storied Life Short Story Challenge here.


Lamb to the Slaughter is the only other Roald Dahl I have read so far, the other was  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I initially thought that this short story would be something feel-good or even childlike like Charlie. Consider the  pleasant innocence of the opening sentences:

The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight-hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.

Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come him from work.

Mary Maloney, heavy with child, is being a dutiful wife, waiting for her husband Patrick, a police investigator, to come home from work. It’s a Thursday, and as routine, they are going to eat out so Mary does not prepare dinner. When Patrick arrives, he seems aloof and Mary takes it in stride, thinking that her husband is probably only tired. And then Patrick tells him that he is leaving her, for good. What follows is the perfect crime that nobody won’t be able to solve.

I was caught off-guard with the sudden turn of events. The story started innocently and mundanely, the build-up was gradual and the outcome was really unexpected. What I thought to be a harmless children’s story was actually a crime story that a child should not read yet. How can someone so in love with his/her spouse suddenly become so hateful to the point of committing murder? How can someone who seems to have the perfect spouse still think of leaving her/him? And how can someone who has just committed the unthinkable murder still proceed to cook dinner?

And now, she told herself as she hurried back, all she was doing now, she was returning home to her husband and he was waiting for his supper; and she must cook it good, and make it as tasty as possible because the poor man was tired; and if, when she entered the house, she happened to find anything unusual, or tragic, or terrible, then naturally it would be a shock and she’d become frantic with grief and horror. Mind you, she wasn’t expecting to find anything. She was just going home with the vegetables. Mrs. Patrick Maloney going home with the vegetables on Thursday evening to cook supper for her husband.

Since I haven’t read anything by Roald Dahl to compare this story to except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I can say that I was pleased with how different these two stories are and how skilled and versatile Roald Dahl is as a writer. I have become more interested to read Dahl’s other works, most probably his other short stories which, according to my research, are also highly acclaimed.

I liked Lamb to the Slaughter. It was disturbing, yes, and I would not recommend this to young children. The violence is not something I want my little children to witness, no, not yet. But when the time is ripe, I’d love to discuss this story’s themes on love and betrayal. I’d love to talk about how seemingly innocent things can all of sudden metamorphose into something important and vice versa.


My Rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read Lamb to the Slaughter here.

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