By Roald Dahl Website by Daisy, Andi, Cory, and Jared.
The symbolism Dahl uses to etch the theme of the story begins most obviously with the title of the short story itself, “Lamb to the Slaughter” and the instrument used by Mary Maloney to kill her husband. Lambs have been used for thousands of years as a symbol of innocence, meekness, and purity. The phrase “like a lamb to a slaughter” represents something innocent happily making its way towards a negative situation in which it will most likely get hurt. Looking at the story, this phrase could be relevant to either character. Mary Maloney could represent the lamb in the sense that even after her husband told her some seemingly terrible news, she continued on being a gentle and caring wife by trying to make dinner for him as though nothing is wrong. She has apparently been completely blind to these events and has been being led around to this ultimate severance of her marriage like a small fluffy animal to be killed and served with mint jelly. Having the murder weapon just so happen to be a leg of lamb, it is also a symbol of the lamb retaliating against the force attempting to take its innocent and light. Patrick Maloney, however, could also be recognized as being unaware, if not innocent, to a demise. After telling his devoted wife the bad news, he continues on. While he does fight her making him dinner with anger, he is still continuing to stay and talk with her while she essentially goes into a frenzy about her beloved husband. His murder was as easy as that of a lambs, he was completely unaware her retaliation would be fatal. Dahl’s symbolism is interesting and clear and weaves a great layer into the story.
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