It is commonly known that people should not be judged based solely on their looks as there are many stereotypical figures that humans have come to live by, many of whom are misconceptions, such as burglars having black jumpsuits and heroes having capes. These figures do not necessarily always act the way humans assume they do; for example, doctors and policemen are just as capable of killing people as murderers are. As a result, a wide variety of people can turn into a killer even when they are least expected. Of all murders in the world, ten percent are planned, where there is a previous intent to kill, and the other ninety percent are not. The statistics suggest that many murders are actually done by everyday people, confirming that people are not actually as they look. As a means of hiding these dispositions, people resort to many different methods of concealing. The short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” is the story of a caring housewife — named Mary Maloney — that murders her husband and applies various methods of concealment to hide her horrible act. In Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter,” Mary Maloney’s repression of her emotions, her ability to manipulate others, and her use of misleading diction show that people can dissemble their motives and feelings.
A person who breaks out with emotions reveals that there is hidden built-up emotion that is released in an instant, implying that people can repress their motives and feelings. Mary Maloney can recklessly kill her husband since he is completely unaware of Mary’s pent-up emotions. Mary hides her emotions from her husband after receiving the bad news, “act[ing] as though she had not heard him, she would find out that none of it had ever happened” (Dahl 2). Had Patrick noticed the changes in her wife’s emotions, he would have not been as defenceless. However, on the spur of the moment, she suddenly releases her pent-up emotions, and as a result, “she [swings] the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and [brings] it down as hard as she [can] on the back of his head” (Dahl 2). Mary’s sudden actions are the consequence of her hidden emotions. Mary’s success in hiding her emotions shows how people have the ability to hide their true motives or feelings.
People can deceive others and hide their secrets by manipulating their emotions. Usually, when secrets are serious, people go to great lengths to keep them hidden. She manipulates her emotions to make others believe what she wants them to believe. Mary Maloney decides to put on an act at the store in order to manipulate the grocer. In the grocery store, Mary’s “smile [is] rather peculiar” and her “voice [sounds] peculiar too” (Dahl 2). Her act at the store helps her change how the grocer thinks of her so that she can make up an alibi. Mary also appeals to emotions to manipulate the policemen at her house. She knows that the murder weapon is still identifiable at this point, so she decides to tempt the police officers to eat the murder weapon. Mary tells the police officers that “Patrick would never forgive [her] if [she] let [them] stay in the house without offering [them] anything to eat” and asks them if they would “eat up the lamb in the oven” (Dahl 4). By bringing up Patrick,—a close friend of the police officers— Mary is able to make them feel obligated to eat the murder weapon. If the police officers were not friends with Patrick, they would not accept the offer because it is against the rules. Through this interaction with the police officers, it is seen that Mary can takes advantage of the previously-built relationship to manipulate the police officers’ emotions, getting them to eat the lamb leg. Mary’s emotional manipulation reveals how a person can mislead others to protect their secrets.
The diction people use in their conversations can make them come across as a different person, suggesting that people can hide their cunning intentions by manipulating language. Oftentimes people use the element of uncertainty in a conversation to hide their wrongdoings or motives since it leads others to believe that the person does not have much knowledge of an incident. In the story, when Mary is talking on the phone with the police officer about her husband, she claims that she “think[s] he’s dead” (Dahl 4), but in actuality, she already knows that her husband is dead since she is the killer. The statement she uses is used to deceive the policemen into thinking that she obviously is not the killer of her own husband and that it must be someone else. While the policemen are still at her house, she takes the opportunity to further illusion them in order to hide her secret. Mary asks the officers to eat the lamb leg as a favour and praises them by saying “[they’re] helping to catch the man who killed him” (Dahl 4). Mary says this with the intent to lead them away from the reality of the situation, as she clearly states that they are catching a man, when the killer is herself, a woman. From Mary’s responses, it is seen that people have the capability to cunningly use diction as a means to lead people further away from the truth or secret.
Throughout the story, Mary’sactions manifest that people have the ability to dissemble their feelings by repressing their emotions, manipulating , and using misleading diction. Because she has a baby coming, she hides her feelings whenever she encounters someone in order to protect her future child from suffering the consequences of her actions. Mary, a regular housewife, is able to easily accomplish this deceptive feat, which suggests that other normal people could execute this feat. Given just how easily Mary is able to conceal her feelings, it is likely that many people also can hide what they are truly feeling from other people for the purpose of protecting themselves or something important to them.