Lamb to the Slaughter

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Jack Noonan is a sergeant and friend of the Maloneys. Jack is one of the first officers to arrive at the scene of the murder. Like the other officers on the case, he is sympathetic and condescending towards Mary and does not suspect her of Patrick’s murder at all. Instead, he tries to comfort her and, along with his colleagues, is persuaded by Mary to eat the leg of lamb, unaware that it is actually the murder weapon.

Jack Noonan Quotes in Lamb to the Slaughter

The Lamb to the Slaughter quotes below are all either spoken by Jack Noonan or refer to Jack Noonan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Lamb to the Slaughter published in 1990.
Lamb to the Slaughter Quotes

The two detectives remained, and so did the two policemen. They were exceptionally nice to her, and Jack Noonan asked if she wouldn't rather go somewhere else, to her sister’s house perhaps, or to his own wife who would take care of her and put her up for the night.

Related Characters: Mary Maloney, Jack Noonan, O’Malley
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Called to investigate the murder, the policemen examine the scene and attend to Mary. Most apparent after their arrival is the stark contrast between Patrick’s treatment of Mary and that of his colleagues. Unlike Patrick, who ignores and rejects Mary, the policemen are “exceptionally nice to her,” emphasizing a shift in Mary’s position within the story.

Jack Noonan’s offer to bring Mary to her sister’s house or to his wife’s demonstrates both his concern for her emotional wellbeing and his assumption that the women will fulfill the expectations of them as caregivers. But it is exactly this assumption that allows Mary to escape suspicion.

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Sometimes Jack Noonan spoke to her gently as he passed by. Her husband, he told her, had been killed by a blow on the back of the head administered with a heavy blunt instrument, almost certainly a large piece of metal. They were looking for the weapon. The murderer may have taken it with him, but on the other hand he may’ve thrown it away or hidden it somewhere on the premises.

“It’s the old story,” he said. “Get the weapon, and you’ve got the man.”

Related Characters: Jack Noonan (speaker), Mary Maloney, Patrick Maloney (the husband)
Related Symbols: Lamb/Leg of lamb
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

While the policemen search for evidence, Jack Noonan explains to Mary that her husband probably died of a blow from a blunt metal instrument. Never considering the possibility that a frozen piece of meat, a symbol of domesticity and innocence (particularly because of the symbolic associations of the lamb), could be the murder weapon, Noonan makes another false assumption when he describes the murderer as a man. Using masculine pronouns such as “him” and “he,” Noonan relies on “the old story” — one in which only men are capable of violence or physical strength. The irony of his claim, “Get the weapon, and you’ve got the man,” is the central irony of the story: the police indeed “get the weapon” — by eating it — but fail to catch the woman.

“Here you all are, and good friends of dear Patrick’s too, and helping to catch the man who killed him. You must be terribly hungry by now because it’s long past your supper time, and I know Patrick would never forgive me, God bless his soul, if I allowed you to remain in his house without offering you decent hospitality. Why don’t you eat up that lamb that’s in the oven? It’ll be cooked just right by now.”

Related Characters: Mary Maloney (speaker), Patrick Maloney (the husband), Jack Noonan, O’Malley
Related Symbols: Lamb/Leg of lamb
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

After hours of searching for the murder weapon, the policemen are persuaded by Mary to rest and eat the leg of lamb, which by now has finished cooking. Mary again plays the role of homemaker and caregiver by offering the men food—but unbeknownst to them, it is not for their sakes that she does so, as it once was for Patrick’s, but rather for the sake of herself and her child. Mary’s deceit invites the men to betray both Patrick and their profession, turning the policemen into her unwitting accomplices. Invoking her husband’s name, she is able to persuade them to eat the lamb, destroying the weapon she used to kill their former friend and colleague.

The woman stayed where she was, listening to them through the open door, and she could hear them speaking among themselves, their voices thick and sloppy because their mouths were full of meat.

“That’s the hell of a big club the guy must’ve used to hit poor Patrick,” one of them was saying. “The doc says his skull was smashed all to pieces just like from a sledge-hammer.”

“Personally, I think it’s right here on the premises.
“Probably right under our very noses. What you think, Jack?”
And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle.

Related Characters: Mary Maloney, Patrick Maloney (the husband), Jack Noonan
Related Symbols: Lamb/Leg of lamb
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

As the narrator becomes more distant from the protagonist, Mary is eavesdropping on the men’s conversation while they finish off the lamb. The men’s speculation that the murder weapon is “under [their] very noses” is another example of Dahl’s black humor and irony. As the men eat their supper, the lamb functions as a weapon against themselves and their job, and as a betrayal of Patrick. Not only do the men fail to detect the murderer and even destroy evidence, but they also engage in (possible) cannibalism, wolfing down the material transferred from Patrick’s body to the leg of lamb. In doing so, they become Mary’s accomplices and allow the emergence of another irony in the story; whereas before Patrick had been consumed with his work, now he is consumed by his work.

Once Patrick leaves Mary, the narrator associates her womanhood with coldness by having Mary feed the murder weapon to her victim’s friends and laugh as they wonder where it might be. Dahl’s portrayal of “the woman” (no longer named as Mary) as either warm and submissive in marriage or murderous and deceitful without marriage, is arguably a stereotypical representation of women as dependent on men for moral and social stability.

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Jack Noonan Character Timeline in Lamb to the Slaughter

The timeline below shows where the character Jack Noonan appears in Lamb to the Slaughter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lamb to the Slaughter
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Two policemen, Jack Noonan and O’Malley, both former colleagues and friends of Patrick, arrive. Still crying, Mary tells them... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Jack Noonan occasionally speaks to Mary, explaining how Patrick was killed. He says that the murder weapon... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
...the weapon. It is late, and they are now tired, frustrated, and hungry. Mary asks Sergeant Jack Noonan for a drink, and he complies, pouring her a glass of whiskey. Mary insists that... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
Sergeant Noonan notices that the lamb is still in the oven and offers to turn it off... (full context)