Lamb to the slaughter

a short story by Roald Dahl

from Hitchcock's movie

Is Mary Maloney guilty?


Read the short story.

And send your answer to the editor.

Yes, I think that Mary Malony is guilty... but she's not alone. We can say that she's reponsible for this crime. But it's a crime of passion. This is not a reason to say that she's not guilty, but it gives her extenuating circumstances. We know that she's expecting a baby, and her husband announced her that he's going to leave her. It's not a respectable attitude and, even if she's a criminal, she mustn't get a big jail sentence.

Manou (LAT, Blois)

To begin with, Patrick wants to leave her because he loves another woman. Mary is so astounded she decides to kill him. She has a very good reason. Besides she's expecting a baby. But still Mary is guilty because it's forbidden to kill. If the police discovers it, she can be arrested and killed. That's why I think this story is tragic. But Mary is very intelligent. The police won't find the weapon: they have eaten it!!!!

Gaëlle (LAT, Blois)

I think Mary Maloney is guilty because she has killed her husband even if she didn't want to. She is a murderer. But I understand Mary because she was expecting a baby. And her husband wanted to leave her. But it is horrible. She has killed her husband with the leg of lamb.
She was lonely, but I think maybe she wasn't alone to kill her husband. I think Mr Maloney had drunk too much whisky and maybe if he hadn't he wouldn't have been dead. But that is not all. Mary has killed her husband. Then she lies to the policemen. She says he was killed when she was out.
To me, she is very guilty, because even if life is tragic it's not a reason to kill her husband. Today lots of husbands leave their wife.

Cécile (LAT, Blois)

I don't think that Mary Maloney is guilty. She has killed her husband but this is because he wanted to leave her. First she doesn't have all her faculties and second if she has all her head, this is a usual reaction. Because when a wife leaves her husband, the husband can hit his wife, this is a usual reaction. She loved her husband, she is just guilty of her emotion. She doesn't really want to kill her husband. When she comes back home and pretends she doesn't know that her husband is dead, this is a real shock for her. This is not a game, she is herself. 

Emma (LAT, Blois)

I think Mrs Maloney, the main character, who was married to a policeman, is not really guilty. She was doing everything her husband asked. She was an obedient woman. She was staying at home while her husband was working, and she was bored.

She couldn’t bear Patrick’s attitude when he came back home because he was very tired and became a drinker. He didn’t drink water or anything with no alcohol, like soda for example, but only whisky with ice cubes. Mary Maloney’s husband wasn’t nice with her and didn’t speak quite well to her. But when he spoke to her, it wasn’t a nice conversation. He told her he made a sort of deal.

After all these frustrations she had enough, she was angry and hungry. And the no out was like the summum. She couldn’t bear these accumulations. Mary loved her husband… She was tired… It was like an accident.

In front of what she had made, she was very embarassed but she found a solution. She organised a setting because she didn’t want to go to jail and not see her child : her future little boy. Then she found a method and was not accused by the different men.

Moreover, she served the lamb which had killed Patrick. The two policemen ate the meat and didn’t find the murderer and the weapon.

Mary Maloney was not accused and not taken by the policemen or anybody. No one knew and said Mrs Maloney was "the" murderer. No fingerprints on the body.

I will say Mrs Maloney was very lucky she was not taken while she was giggling! If someone like her did what she did, she/he would go directly to jail after the investigation. Our country is very strict!

Claire (LAT, Blois)

First her husband wanted to break with her and second she was pregnant. She had a true reason for murdering her husband. But she had no right to murder him. It is forbidden by the law. If all the women murdered their husband because he wants to leave her, it would be a chaos. She is guilty because she has no right to murder a man.

Tiphaine (LAT, Blois)

At the start, Mary is all innocent, like a lamb. She doesn't expect anything bad to happen. After Patrick tells her the news, he is standing at the window, unexpecting, like a lamb to the slaughter, because he knows nothing of what's happening. And Mary kills him with a leg of lamb. Patrick is slaughtered by the leg of lamb, so by Mary. The weapon is the very innocent lamb. Therefore Mary is guilty because she has commited a crime. Moreover the policemen eat the lamb. They eat the weapon and the evidence. So the case will never be cleared because they are too innocent to suspect the meat. The meat isn't bad because it's lamb. But the leg of lamb is guilty because it has killed Patrick. It's brutal because it's unexpected.

The story is strange because it's unexpected that Mary kills her husband with an innocent leg of lamb. Moreover she covers the crime and cooks the meat. She isn't sad that her husband is dead.

Jennifer (LAT, Blois)

We can suppose that when he came back home, Patrick Maloney wanted to tell his wife that he wanted to change his life and his wife. But Mrs. Maloney didn't accept it and it can be the reason for the crime. I think it is possible to kill someone with a leg of lamb, if it is big and if Mary Maloney killed her husband with great violence. She wanted to have a protection and prepared a supper where she bought the products Mr. Maloney liked. At the end of the story, while the policemen were eating the weapon of the crime, she was happy.
Then in my opinion, Mary Maloney is guilty of the crime of her husband.

Alexandre (LAT, Blois)

I think that Mrs Maloney is guilty because it was her who killed her husband. She invented a story not to be accused. She had no good reason to kill her husband. He was not bad, not violent, he just wanted them to divorce. Mrs Maloney even surprised him. She waited for the right moment to kill him. I have to say that she was guilty. Also she had no regret. She gave the lamb to the detectives to eat and she laughed unscrupulously. Mrs Maloney loved her husband so much that she couldn’t live without him. She prefered to kill him rather than live without him.

Charlotte (LAT, Blois)

I believe that Mary Maloney is guilty. Despite the fact that here husband was going to leave her, for reasons unspecified in the text, the fact still remains that she hit him on the head causing his death. It may be that she is guilty of manslaughter and not murder, but she is definitely guilty of one of the two crimes.

Matthew (LAT, Blois, exchange student from Thames, New Zealand, in 2003)

Oct 12, 2004

Yes and no. Yes because she obviously did commit the crime, but no because she didn't do it out of spite. It was in pure shock, in protection of her unborn child and of pure and utter heart break. When you love someone the way Mary loved Patrick, all you want is to be loved back, for them to be happy but for you to be there to share it with them. She was devastated that he would do this to her and so acted in a trance. So in that sense she is not guilty. Had he not done that, then I am sure murdering him would never have crossed her mind. So you could say she acted because she was provoked. 

Kathy L. (Ayr, Scotland)

Jan 17, 2005

"Lamb To The Slaughter" is about a murderess who deludes her self that nothing is wrong and to act normal. The story is told in the third person. An omniscient narrator knows everything. The story is very peculiar and mysterious because we do not know whether the woman has committed murder or manslaughter.

Cellan, Cwmtawe Comprehensive, Pontardawe (Wales, UK)

May 31, 2005:

As far as we are concerned, we think Mary is not guilty because she was a caring wife, she was waiting for her husband every night, sewing in her house, on her own. And all he found to do was to leave her although she was expecting a baby !

She spent all of her time loving him and his reaction shows us he didn't deserve Mary.

We can imagine that if he leaves her, she will lose everything. That's why we cannot help siding with Mary : we would have done the same thing !

Milay, Lucie (Laon, France)

As for me, Mary is guilty from a legal point of view but she has mitigating circurmstances because she is pregnant: her hormones are playing tricks on her. Besides, her husband should have told her more tactfully that he wanted to leave her.

I can say that in the policemen's eyes, Mary is guilty but in the readers's eyes she is not.

Julie (Septmons, France)

In our view, Mary is not guilty. In fact, her husband was unfaithful and she was right to kill him. He was a horrible man because he wanted to abandon her although she was six month-pregnant. He was really heartless with his caring wife. Moreover, we can't help feeling sympathy for Mary who has turned into a radical feminist. At the beginning of the story, she was a submissive housewife and she became a free woman. To our minds, the metamorphosis is very positive.

Sophie and Gaëlle (Laon, France)

On the one hand Mary is guilty because she has killed her husband with a leg of Lamb. She should be punished by the law.

But on the other hand she was very sad when her husband told her that he was leaving her and she wanted to avenge herself because she was crazy about him; she was disappointed, broken-hearted. Thus, we can say that she has mitigating circumstances.

Kelly and Virginie (Guignicourt and Couvron, France)

On the one hand, Mary is guilty because she made a fuss about the situation. A lot of women live the same situation and happily, they don't kill their husbands. Maybe Mary's love for Patrick was so strong that she couldn't help taking her revenge.

On the other hand, if we consider Mary's feelings, we understand that she had to do something when she understood that her husband was deceiving her. So she didn't think twice when she killed him. She was desperate, sad and so alone.

Vanessa (Montaigu, France)

Mary Maloney is guilty of the murder only : she killed Patrick so she must be punished. Committing this murder, she probably wasted her life.

But on the other hand, she was hopelessly devoted to her husband. But he didn't respect her, he deceived her and didn't care about their unborn baby.... So we can say she was not guilty of the death of their couple.

Eléonore and Charlotte (Laon, France)

On the one hand, Mary is guilty because she wittingly killed her husband and it's forbidden by the law; she showed herself pitiless, cruel and irresponsible.

On the other hand we cannot help siding with Mary, since she was devoted to her husband and to thank her, he found nothing else than being unfaithful; he deceived her with another woman! Patrick was really merciless, because he had broken Mary's heart while she was pregnant! She should have tortured him!

Gwennaël (Parfondeval, France)

On the one hand, we can say Mary isn't guilty. She is just angry, so sad because her husband doesn't want to take on his responsibility as a father. Patrick is definitely guilty because he was pitiless with her, he was punished!

But on the other hand, Mary should have accepted her husband's choice, and shouldn't have killed him. She 's all the guiltier as she doesn't feel any remorse. What a cruel woman!

What will she say to her son when he asks her where his father is?

Marine and Anne-Lise (Sissonne and Laon, France)

On the one hand, we can say that Mary is guilty because she killed her husband.

On the other hand, she isn't because she did that by love. She didn't want her husband to leave her. Maybe she didn't want to kill him, she just wanted to hit him, to keep him close to her.

Laurie and Elodie (Laon, France)

Mary is guilty legally but love makes her innocent because it is her choice, the heart doesn't choose; love made her blind, but law is law. Between hate and love, there are only two ways: on the one hand our destiny and passion, on the other hand guilt. Mary is guilty of loving her husband but also guilty of not having been able to make him love her.

Julie and Martin (Laon, France)

In my opinion, Mary Maloney is not totally guilty, because she had good reasons to lose her temper. In fact, her husband wanted to leave her for another woman; on top of that Mary is pregnant and this man doesn't care about it. He is only concerned about money. What a chauvinist pig!

Christelle and Cécile (Saint Quentin , France)

March 16, 2006

When Patrick announced that he is about to leave her naturally Mary must be very upset with that. But she doesn't do that act. Instead she goes down calmly and collects the leg of the lamb. So she immediately gets a cold-blooded instinct to kill Patrick. She comes with that intention to him, and when she gets a chance she kills him. So she follows a plan (in going down, getting the weapon, and hitting him from behind). It's not an immediate reaction from the woman. Since it was a plan she is guilty and must be punished.

Suresh (Bangalore, India)

April 6, 2006

In my opinion, Mary is absolutely guilty. Even if her husband cheated on her there was no reason to kill him. She should have tried to solve things by talking, or at least accept the situation like an adult. Though I do think the sentence shouldn't be so bad since it was a crime of passion and moreover, she was pregnant.

Ana (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

April 6, 2006

I suppose Mrs Maloney is guilty, but in a trial they would declare that she is crazy and she wouldn't go to prision. She is guilty because she can't kill someone ony because she wants to, and she wasn't in her own defence. Although she was pregnant, she should go to prison all the same.

Juliana (Argentina)

April 6, 2006

In my opinion, I think that Mrs. Maloney is not guilty at all. Because yes, she killed her husband and that is a crime, but the poor woman had reasons for killing him, because he made bad things to her.

Pilar (Argentina)

April 6, 2006

I think Mrs. Maloney isn't quilty, because she did always the same things, and she didn't do anything, or just a little because she was expecting a baby. She didn't work, she didn't clean and she didn't go out so much. She lived just for him: she cooked for him, she bought food and things for him, she waited for him. So, when he told her he would leave her, she got desperate and she did the first thing that came to her mind.

Victoria (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

April 6, 2006

I think she is guilty, but with a good reason. How would you feel if you were expecting a baby and your husband wanted to divorce?? She had a reason, and she knew the ways to cover the murder. She should go to prison after she has her baby.

Francisco (Argentina)

April 6, 2006

I think that Mrs Maloney is guilty because she killed her husband and that it is a crime. But I understands she was expecting a baby. And I know that her husband wanted to leave her.
But it isn't a reason to kill her husband. Today a lot of husbands leave their wife or want to divorce.

Antonela (Argentina)

April 6, 2006

I think Mrs Maloney is guilty in some way because she was pregnant and her husband came from work and told her that he was going to leave her. I think that was the reason that provoked Mrs Maloney to kill her husband, and I also think she was a little crazy.

Carolina (Argentina)