In this session, we will be bringing you the updated answers for CommonLit Lamb To The Slaughter topic.
Table of Contents
Lamb To The Slaughter CommonLit Answer Key
Let us first read Lamb To The Slaughter passage and will answer at the end.
Lamb To The Slaughter
By Roald Dahl (1916-1990). He was a British novelist, short story writer, and poet. Dahl’s books are known for their
unexpected endings and often darkly comic themes. In this short story, a woman is betrayed by her
husband and retaliates in an extreme way.
The room was warm and clean, the curtains were drawn, the two table lamps alight1 — hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.
Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work.
Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it
nearer the time when he would come. There was a slow smiling air about her, and about everything she did. The drop of a 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.
When the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen, and a few moments later, punctually as always, she heard the tires on the gravel outside, and the car door slamming, the footsteps passing the window, the key turning in the lock. She laid aside her sewing, stood up, and
went forward to kiss him as he came in.
“Hullo darling,” she said.
“Hullo darling,” he answered.
She took his coat and hung it in the closet. Then she walked over and made the drinks, a strongish one for him, a weak one for herself; and soon she was back again in her chair with the sewing, and he in the other, opposite, holding the tall glass with both hands, rocking it so the ice cubes tinkled against the side.
For her, this was always a blissful time of day. 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. She loved him for the way he sat loosely in a chair, for the way he came in a door, or moved slowly across the room with long strides.
She loved the intent, far look in his eyes when they rested on her, the funny shape of the mouth, and especially the way he remained silent about his tiredness, sitting still with himself until the whiskey had taken some of it away.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m tired,” And as he spoke, he did an unusual thing. He lifted his glass and drained it in one swallow although there was still half of it, at least half of it left. She wasn’t really watching him, but she knew what he had done because she heard the ice cubes falling back against the bottom of the empty glass when he lowered his arm. He paused a moment, leaning forward in the chair, then he got up and went slowly over to fetch himself another.
“I’ll get it!” she cried, jumping up.
“Sit down,” he said.
When he came back, she noticed that the new drink was dark amber with a quantity of whiskey in it.
“Darling, shall I get your slippers?”
She watched him as he began to sip the dark yellow drink, and she could see little oily swirls in the liquid because it was so strong.
“I think it’s a shame,” she said, “that when a policeman gets to be as senior as you, they keep him walking about on his feet all day long.”
He didn’t answer, so she bent her head again and went on with her sewing; but each time he lifted the drink to his lips, she heard the ice cubes clinking against the side of the glass.
“Darling,” she said. “Would you like me to get you some cheese? I haven’t made any supper because it’s Thursday.”
“No,” he said
“If you’re too tired to eat out,” she went on, “it’s still not too late. There’s plenty of meat and stuff in the freezer, and you can have it right here and not even move out of the chair.”
Her eyes waited on him for an answer, a smile, a little nod, but he made no sign.
“Anyway,” she went on, “I’ll get you some cheese and crackers first.”
“I don’t want it,” he said.
She moved uneasily in her chair, the large eyes still watching his face. “But you must eat! I’ll fix it anyway, and then you can have it or not, as you like.”
She stood up and placed her sewing on the table by the lamp.
“Sit down,” he said. “Just for a minute, sit down.”
It wasn’t till then that she began to get frightened.
“Go on,” he said. “Sit down.”
She lowered herself back slowly into the chair, watching him all the time with those large, bewildered eyes. He had finished the second drink and was staring down into the glass, frowning.
“Listen,” he said. “I’ve got something to tell you.”
“What is it, darling? What’s the matter?”
He had now become absolutely motionless, and he kept his head down so that the light from the lamp beside him fell across the upper part of his face, leaving the chin and mouth in shadow. She noticed there was a little muscle moving near the corner of his left eye.
“This is going to be a bit of a shock to you, I’m afraid,” he said. “But I’ve thought about it a good deal and I’ve decided the only thing to do is tell you right away. I hope you won’t blame me too much.”
And he told her. It didn’t take long, four or five minutes at most, and she sat very still through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from her with each word.
“So there it is,” he added. “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.”
Her first instinct10 was not to believe any of it, to reject it all. It occurred to her that perhaps he hadn’t even spoken, that she herself had imagined the whole thing. Maybe, if she went about her business and acted as though she hadn’t been listening, then later, when she sort of woke up again, she might find none of it had ever happened.
“I’ll get the supper,” she managed to whisper, and this time he didn’t stop her.
When she walked across the room she couldn’t feel her feet touching the floor. She couldn’t feel anything at all — except a slight nausea and a desire to vomit. Everything was automatic now — down the steps to the cellar, the light switch, the deep freeze, the hand inside the cabinet taking hold of the first object it met. She lifted it out, and looked at it. It was wrapped in paper, so she took off the paper and looked at it again.
A leg of lamb.
All right then, they would have lamb for supper. She carried it upstairs, holding the thin bone-end of it with both her hands, and as she went through the living-room, she saw him standing over by the window with his back to her, and she stopped.
“For God’s sake,” he said, hearing her, but not turning round. “Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out.”
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.
The violence of the crash, the noise, the small table overturning, helped bring her out of the shock. She came out slowly, feeling cold and surprised, and she stood for a while blinking at the body, still holding the ridiculous piece of meat tight with both hands.
All right, she told herself. So I’ve killed him.
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.
She carried the meat into the kitchen, placed it in a pan, turned the oven on high, and shoved it inside.
Then she washed her hands and ran upstairs to the bedroom. She sat down before the mirror, tidied her hair, touched up her lips and face. She tried a smile. It came out rather peculiar.11 She tried again.
“Hullo Sam,” she said brightly, aloud.
The voice sounded peculiar too.
“I want some potatoes please, Sam. Yes, and I think a can of peas.”
That was better. Both the smile and the voice were coming out better now. She rehearsed it several times more. Then she ran downstairs, took her coat, went out the back door, down the garden, into the street.
It wasn’t six o’clock yet and the lights were still on in the grocery shop.
“Hullo Sam,” she said brightly, smiling at the man behind the counter.
“Why, good evening, Mrs. Maloney. How’re you?”
“I want some potatoes please, Sam. Yes, and I think a can of peas.”
The man turned and reached up behind him on the shelf for the peas.
“Patrick’s decided he’s tired and doesn’t want to eat out tonight,” she told him. “We usually go out
Thursdays, you know, and now he’s caught me without any vegetables in the house.”
“Then how about meat, Mrs. Maloney?”
“No, I’ve got meat, thanks. I got a nice leg of lamb from the freezer.”
“I don’t much like cooking it frozen, Sam, but I’m taking a chance on it this time. You think it’ll be all right?”
“Personally,” the grocer said, “I don’t believe it makes any difference. You want these Idaho potatoes?”
“Oh yes, that’ll be fine. Two of those.”
“Anything else?” The grocer cocked his head on one side, looking at her pleasantly. “How about afterward? What are you going to give him for afterward?”
“Well — what would you suggest, Sam?”
The man glanced around his shop. “How about a nice big slice of cheesecake? I know he likes that.” “Perfect,” she said. “He loves it.”
And when it was all wrapped and she had paid, she put on her brightest smile and said, “Thank you, Sam. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Mrs. Maloney. And thank you.”
And now, she told herself as she hurried back, all she was doing now, she was returning home to her husband and he was waiting for his supper; and she must cook it well, and make it as tasty as possible because the poor man was tired; and if, when she entered the house, she happened to find
anything unusual, or tragic, or terrible, then naturally it would be a shock and she’d become frantic with grief and horror. Mind you, she wasn’t expecting to find anything. She was just going home with the vegetables. Mrs. Patrick Maloney went home with the vegetables on Thursday evening to cook supper for her husband.
That’s the way, she told herself. Do everything right and natural. Keep things absolutely natural and there’ll be no need for any acting at all.
Therefore, when she entered the kitchen by the back door, she was humming a little tune to herself and smiling.
“Patrick!” she called. “How are you, darling?”
She put the parcel13 down on the table and went through into the living room, and when she saw him lying there on the floor with his legs doubled up and one arm twisted back underneath his body, it really was rather a shock. All the old love and longing for him welled14 up inside her, and she ran over to him, knelt down beside him, and began to cry her heart out. It was easy. No acting was necessary.
A few minutes later she got up and went to the phone. She knew the number of the police station, and when the man at the other end answered, she cried to him, “Quick! Come quick! Patrick’s dead!”
“Mrs. Maloney. Mrs. Patrick Maloney.”
“You mean Patrick Maloney’s dead?”
“I think so,” she sobbed. “He’s lying on the floor and I think he’s dead.”
“Be right over,” the man said.
The car came very quickly, and when she opened the front door, two policemen walked in. She knew them both — she knew nearly all the men at that precinct — and she fell right into a chair, then went over to join the other one, who was called O’Malley, kneeling by the body.
“Is he dead?” she cried.
“I’m afraid he is. What happened?”
Briefly, she told her story about going out to the grocer and coming back to find him on the floor. While she was talking, crying and talking, Noonan discovered a small patch of congealed16 blood on the dead man’s head. He showed it to O’Malley who got up at once and hurried to the phone.
Soon, other men began to come into the house. First a doctor, then two detectives, one of whom she knew by name. Later, a police photographer arrived and took pictures and a man who knew about fingerprints. There was a great deal of whispering and muttering beside the corpse,17 and the
detectives kept asking her a lot of questions.
But they always treated her kindly. She told her story again, this time right from the beginning when Patrick had come in, and she was sewing, and he was tired, so tired he hadn’t wanted to go out for supper. She told how she’d put the meat in the oven —
“it’s there now, cooking” — and how she’d slipped out to the grocer for vegetables, and come back to find him lying on the floor.
“Which grocer?” one of the detectives asked.
She told him, and he turned and whispered something to the other detective who immediately went outside into the street.
In fifteen minutes he was back with a page of notes, and there was more whispering, and through her sobbing, she heard a few of the whispered phrases — “…acted quite normal…very cheerful…wanted to give him a good supper…peas…cheesecake…impossible that she…”
After a while, the photographer and the doctor departed and two other men came in and took the corpse away on a stretcher. Then the fingerprint man went away. 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.
No, she said. She didn’t feel she could move even a yard at the moment. Would they mind awfully if she stayed just where she was until she felt better? She didn’t feel too good at the moment, she really didn’t.
Then hadn’t she better lie down on the bed? Jack Noonan asked.
No, she said. She’d like to stay right where she was, in this chair. A little later, perhaps, when she felt better, she would move.
So they left her there while they went about their business, searching the house. Occasionally one of the detectives asked her another question. Sometimes Jack Noonan spoke at 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 have 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.”
Later, one of the detectives came up and sat beside her. Did she know, he asked, of anything in the house that could’ve been used as the weapon? Would she mind having a look around to see if anything was missing — a very big spanner for example, or a heavy metal vase.
They didn’t have any heavy metal vases, she said.
“Or a big spanner?”
She didn’t think they had a big spanner. But there might be some things like that in the garage. The search went on. She knew that there were other policemen in the garden all around the house.
She could hear their footsteps on the gravel outside, and sometimes she saw a flash of a torch through a chink in the curtains. It began to get late, nearly nine she noticed by the clock on the mantle. The four men searching the rooms seemed to be growing weary, a trifle exasperated.
“Jack,” she said, the next time Sergeant Noonan went by. “Would you mind giving me a drink?”
“Sure I’ll give you a drink. You mean this whiskey?”
“Yes please. But just a small one. It might make me feel better.”
He handed her the glass.
“Why don’t you have one yourself,” she said. “You must be awfully tired. Please do. You’ve been very good to me.”
“Well,” he answered. “It’s not strictly allowed, but I might take just a drop to keep me going.”
One by one the others came in and were persuaded to take a little nip of whiskey. They stood around rather awkwardly with the drinks in their hands, uncomfortable in her presence, trying to say consoling things to her. Sergeant Noonan wandered into the kitchen, come out quickly, and said,
“Look, Mrs. Maloney. You know that oven of yours is still on, and the meat still inside.”
“Oh dear me!” she cried. “So it is!”
“I better turn it off for you, hadn’t I?”
“Will you do that, Jack. Thank you so much.”
When the sergeant returned the second time, she looked at him with her large, dark tearful eyes. “Jack Noonan,” she said.
…[CONTINUE READING FROM MAIN SITE ITSELF]
Let us now discuss CommonLit Lamb To The Slaughter answers key to the questions asked:
Q1. PART A: Which statement identifies the theme of the text?
Ans: People can act unpredictably when they are betrayed by someone they love.
Q2. PART B: Which detail from the text best supports the answer to Part A?
Ans: “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.” (Paragraph 42)
Q3. PART A: What is the meaning of “tranquil” in paragraph 3?
Q4. PART B: Which quote from paragraph 3 best supports the answer to Part A?
Ans: “a slow smiling air about her,”
Q5. PART A: How would you describe Mary’s decision to kill her husband?
Ans: She was fueled by hurt that he was leaving her.
Q6. PART B: Which section from the text best supports the answer to Part A?
Ans: “she sat very still through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from her with each word.” (Paragraph 34)
Q7. How does paragraph 45 help develop the plot of the story?
Ans: It reveals that she felt shocked by her own actions.
Q8. How does Mary’s feelings about killing her husband, in the beginning, compare to the end of the story?
Ans: When she first realized the situation, she initially did not feel any remorse over it. She went to the shop, got the vegetables and came back. But the actual shock of seeing him dead hit her only after her return from the shop. She even cried genuinely, all the love she had for him come back to her. But considering the circumstances and the safety of the baby, she felt right about the killing and even laughed while the two men were eating the murder weapon.
Q9. What is ironic about this murder mystery that the police are attempting to solve?
Ans: When the officers are discussing where the murder weapon could be, the one officer says that it is probably very nearby. One of them humorously says that the weapon is probably right under their noses. It’s ironic because as a reader I know that the murder weapon is quite literally under their noses.
Discussion Questions with answer (Lamb To The Slaughter)
Q10. In your opinion, what is another way Mary Maloney could have resolved her conflict with her husband?
Ans: For me, there is no reason to kill someone, and even worse if it is just because that person doesn’t love you anymore. I think that they could have talked about it and try to find a solution that will keep both of them.
Q11. How does the title of the short story refer to the murder weapon, as well as the fate of Patrick Maloney?
Ans: When I first read the title I thought it was a metaphor used to imply an implicit theme. But as I start to read the whole thing I understood the title is describing the murder weapon. Also, it describes the role that Patrick played in the story, while his wife was talking to him quietly and pacific, and then she suddenly killed him.
Q12. In the text, Mary Maloney takes many different actions and experiences many different emotions. Overall, what kind of person would you say she is? How is she complex?
Ans: I will describe her as a cold, calculating, and manipulative person. A complex woman is a mixture of emotions she’s able to express deeply and often. This doesn’t mean she’s high drama, loud, or running low in self-control, it simply means she’s a thinker, and even when quiet.
Q13. In the context of this short story, what drives people to betray? How did love contribute to Mary Maloney’s decision to violently attack her husband? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.
Ans: People may be driven to betray someone due to them being self-sufficient and no longer needing the support of someone else. Love contributed to Mary’s decision to violently attack her husband as she became emotionally attached after caring for him for so long and the
split between them would make every act of support meaningless. The story states “Her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all. It occurred to her that perhaps he hadn’t even spoken, that she herself had imagined the whole thing”. This shows how she was in
complete doubt after being betrayed by her husband.
Q14. How does Mary Maloney’s status as a housewife affect her feelings towards her husband, both before and after learning of his betrayal?
Ans: Does this short story alter the perception of the perfect housewife? Mary Malloney’s status as a housewife affects her feelings as she feels mentally enslaved by the love for her husband and feels the need to do everything at home for his comfort only, for example when she starts to insist on cooking something for him because he was tired and maybe hungry. This story changes the perception of a perfect housewife as the housewife in this story is described as a woman who must assist her husband even when he refuses just to keep up with his well-being and eventually ends up taking the life of her husband when he controls her services.
Q15. Mary Maloney only decides to cover up the murder after thinking of her unborn baby. In the context of this short story, how does fear drive action? Cite evidence from the text, your personal experience, and other literature, art, and history in your answer.
Ans: Fear drives the action as Mary becomes anxious and begins to think about how her life will be negatively impacted and even harm the childhood of her baby. She immediately tries to find a solution to her problem that could save her from dealing with the consequences of the murder. In the short story, Mary questions her actions as she states “What were the laws about murderers with unborn children? Did they kill both mother and child? Or did they wait until the tenth month? What did they do?”.
Hope you got the correct Lamb To The Slaughter CommonLit Answers Key which is shared above.
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