Lamb to the Slaughter

Themes and Colors
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Role Reversals Theme Icon
Food/Consumption Theme Icon
Betrayal Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Lamb to the Slaughter, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Betrayal Theme Icon

Patrick’s betrayal of his marriage drives the rest of the story’s plot, leading to both his wife’s betrayal and that of his colleagues. When he leaves his wife, Patrick betrays not only the love Mary has for him but also the unborn child she is carrying and their private domestic life together. At the sudden breakdown of her marriage and the world she built around Patrick, Mary commits her own betrayal by killing her husband. Covering up the murder primarily for the sake of her child, Mary calls the police, maintaining a façade of innocence and manipulating the policemen to inadvertently commit a betrayal of their own. As they investigate the murder, the policemen unknowingly betray both their former colleague and their profession by drinking whiskey on the job and by eating the evidence, ironically speculating in another example of Dahl’s black humor that the murder weapon is “right under our very noses.” Through this succession of betrayals, Dahl seems to be suggesting that betrayal begets betrayal, that disloyalty and deception will only lead to more treachery.

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Betrayal ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Betrayal appears in each chapter of Lamb to the Slaughter. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Betrayal Quotes in Lamb to the Slaughter

Below you will find the important quotes in Lamb to the Slaughter related to the theme of Betrayal.
Lamb to the Slaughter Quotes

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:

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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:

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“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:

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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:

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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