Dahl starts the story with the title ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ which creates an idea that someone will fall victim to murder. The title conveys a violent image to the reader. ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is in juxtaposed to the 1st paragraph as it talks about the room being ‘warm’ and ‘clean’ whereas the title shows no signs of a warm story. The title is contrasted to the first paragraph in which the title suggests a shocking, intense, murderous storyline, whereas the first paragraph is all about the marital bliss of a housewife. This is mainly because of the feeling they give when reading it as the title is conventional however the first paragraph shows suspense.
‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ shows the inversion of many characters, mainly through the point of view of what the reader at first believes to be the victim. This supposed victim is seen to be the lamb mentioned in the title, being innocent and weak, however this is subverted as it turns out that the victim is in fact the murderer. We also learn that generalisations are wrong once again by the fact that the general murderer is in fact the victim in the end. This change of characters builds up the tension which keeps the reader engaged and hooked on the story.
This story is full of unconventional occurrences as many of the acts are not premeditated; the murder, the weapon, the motive, the cover-up; all these were unplanned and completely spontaneous. For example, the weapon, was in fact a leg of lamb. Mary had picked the first thing there, also, we find out later in the story that the weapon is ingested by the very people looking for it. The motive was one of love and anger, and possibly revenge because of the supposed bad news given to Mary by her husband. The cover-up was unconventional due to an alibi created not for self preservation but to save her unborn child. She was the prime suspect of the murder as she was the only person to be at the crime scene, however the detectives believe that it couldn’t have been her because of the alibi she created.
This story is full of problems that run deeper than physical trauma, deep into the mind of the killer. ‘Her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all’ shows denial, one of the stages of murder. Their relationship was falling apart and she was thrown into a state of panic. This conveys to the reader that something bad is happening, they are left asking themselves questions such as ‘What is going to happen to her?’. These questions are the foundation for the story.
Mary breaks the conventional murderer by killing her husband because of love, she was a devoted wife who loved her husband. It is only this that i can comprehend to be the deciding factor in her madness as she is driven crazy and attacks her husband brutally. She even practised her lines, so to speak, that would be sad to the shopkeeper, this shows her ruthlessness as a murderer. She even managed to convince herself that he was still alive. No one suspected near the end which is what surprised most people and is the main climax of the story.
The climax of the story revolves around the leg of lamb and its destruction as the detectives eat the evidence spouting ironic comments such as ‘Probably right under our very noses. What you think, Jack?’. This is the unconventional twist in the tail as the detectives do not find the murder weapon in the end.
The detectives are unconventional in every way. They drink whisky which would make the situation worse as they are light-headed and wouldn’t really think about things before they say or do anything. As mentioned before, they eat the murder weapon which would have lead to Mary’s’ conviction further showing the unconventional means by which this story was written.