Lamb to the Slaughter

The story’s protagonist, Mary Maloney is the wife of Patrick Maloney, a detective. A happy and devoted housewife who is six months pregnant with her first child, Mary spends much of her time caring for and thinking about her husband while attending to domestic tasks such as cooking and sewing. After Patrick reveals that he is leaving her, however, Mary suddenly kills him with a frozen leg of lamb. She then cunningly covers up the murder, using her role as an “innocent,” supposedly-foolish housewife to trick the investigators.

Mary Maloney Quotes in Lamb to the Slaughter

The Lamb to the Slaughter quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Maloney or refer to Mary Maloney. 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 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, whisky. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.
Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work.

Related Characters: Mary Maloney, Patrick Maloney (the husband)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Lamb to the Slaughter quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

There was a slow smiling air about her, and about everything she did. The drop of the head as she bent over her sewing was curiously tranquil. Her skin—for this was her sixth month with child—had acquired a wonderful translucent quality, the mouth was soft, and the eyes, with their new placid look, seemed larger, darker than before.

Related Characters: Mary Maloney
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum do

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur siLorLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, conLorLorem ipsLorLorem ipsuLorLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor inci

She knew he didn’t want to speak much until the first drink was finished, and she, on her side, was content to sit quietly, enjoying his company after the long hours alone in the house. She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel—almost as a sunbather feels the sun—that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together.

Related Characters: Mary Maloney, Patrick Maloney (the husband)
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

And I know it’s kind of a bad time to be telling you, but there simply wasn’t any other way. Of course I’ll give you money and see you’re looked after. But there needn’t really be any fuss. I hope not anyway. It wouldn’t be very good for my job.

Related Characters: Patrick Maloney (the husband) (speaker), Mary Maloney
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

At that point, Mary Maloney simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his head.
She might just as well have hit him with a steel club.
She stepped back a pace, waiting, and the funny thing was that he remained standing there for at least four or five seconds, gently swaying. Then he crashed to the carpet.

Related Characters: Mary Maloney, Patrick Maloney (the husband)
Related Symbols: Lamb/Leg of lamb
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deseru

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non pr

It was extraordinary, now, how clear her mind became all of a sudden. She began thinking very fast. As the wife of a detective, she knew quite well what the penalty would be. That was fine. It made no difference to her. In fact, it would be a relief. On the other hand, what about the child? What were the laws about murderers with unborn children? Did they kill them both—mother and child? Or did they wait until the tenth month? What did they do?
Mary Maloney didn’t know. And she certainly wasn’t prepared to take a chance.

Related Characters: Mary Maloney
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occae

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.LoreLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, coLoLorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id

Get the entire Lamb to the Slaughter LitChart as a printable PDF.
Lamb to the slaughter.pdf.medium

Mary Maloney Character Timeline in Lamb to the Slaughter

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Maloney appears in Lamb to the Slaughter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lamb to the Slaughter
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...and two glasses on the table, and drinks and fresh ice ready to be mixed. Mary Maloney is at home alone, sitting across from an empty chair and waiting for her... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Six months pregnant and happy with her life, Mary works on her sewing and eagerly awaits her husband’s arrival. She is described in bodily... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
When her husband arrives home, Mary greets him with a kiss and an endearment, hangs his coat up for him, and... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
For Mary, this post-work ritual is “blissful,” despite her husband’s silence, which she accommodates and mirrors. She... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...the husband downs half his glass in one swallow and goes to get more, ordering Mary to sit down when she tries to help him. When he returns, his glass has... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
Mary repeatedly asks her husband if he would like something to eat, offering suggestions and insisting... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
...narrator leaves out the details of the conversation, but allows the reader to discern that Mary’s husband is leaving her. The husband acknowledges that “it’s kind of a bad time,” promising... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
Mary, shocked and unwilling to believe what her husband has told her, decides to act as... (full context)
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
Without warning, Mary walks up to her husband and bashes the back of his head with the frozen... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
The noise brings Mary out of shock as she recognizes that her husband is dead. She quickly realizes that... (full context)
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
To do so, Mary puts the murder weapon, the leg of lamb, into the oven and lets it cook.... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
After she has rehearsed enough, Mary goes outside to a grocery shop and chats briefly and casually with Sam, the grocer,... (full context)
Role Reversals Theme Icon
...policemen, Jack Noonan and O’Malley, both former colleagues and friends of Patrick, arrive. Still crying, Mary tells them that she went out to the grocer and came back to find him... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
...photographer, and fingerprint expert leave, the policemen, still “exceptionally nice to her,” try to make Mary more comfortable by offering her the company of her sister or Noonan’s wife. Mary refuses,... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Jack Noonan occasionally speaks to Mary, explaining how Patrick was killed. He says that the murder weapon was probably a heavy... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
...success finding 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... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
...the lamb is still in the oven and offers to turn it off for her. Mary then asks him and the others for a “small favour” — that they eat the... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
...men speculate that it is “right here on the premises,” “right under our very noses,” Mary giggles to herself. (full context)