Lamb to the Slaughter

lamb-to-the-slaughterThe title of this story by Roald Dahl is a wonderful play on words. On the one hand a lamb (or rather a frozen leg of lamb) is used by a woman to murder her husband. On the other, we are left wondering how the title might relate to the English Like a lamb to the .” Which of the two (the husband, the wife or both) could be described as a gentle person who goes calmly and ly about their business, not knowing that something very unpleasant is about to happen to them?

Pre-Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises

The words and expressions in our Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1800 word list are: cellar, cheerful, cheesecake, , , , darling, fingerprint, grocery, , ice bucket, , lamb, pea, , , , sergeant, sew, , skull, slipper, , supper, , torch, , , and whisper.

There are also some words that are in our Intermediate word list but have a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used:

  • In the first paragraph we are told that the curtains in the room are drawn. Here the word means to move (something) by pulling. This tells us that the curtains are closed.
  • In the third paragraph we are told that Mary Maloney has a slow smiling air about her and is six months with child. Here the word means quality or appearance, and to be ‘with child’ means to be .
  • When Patrick Maloney is giving Mary his bad news, he says that he has thought about it a good deal. Here the expression ‘a good deal’ means much or a lot.
  • After killing Patrick, Mary goes upstairs to tidy her hair and her face. In this case she is fixing her before going out to the grocer.
  • Detective Noonan tells Mary that Patrick was killed by a blow on the back of the head. Here the word means a hard hit, rather than having anything to do with wind.

The unanswered question: What did Patrick say to Mary?

I like it when an leaves an important point like this, upon which a whole story could turn, to the reader’s imagination.

Most of the comments about Lamb to the Slaughter on the Internet paint Patrick as a cheating husband who tells his loving, pregnant wife that he is leaving her for another woman. But there is no direct evidence for this in the story. , Mary’s initial reaction to hearing the news (deciding to pretend that it did not happen and go about her duties as normal) is hardly what you would expect from a wife in such a situation. Could there be a darker answer?

Patrick is painted as a creature of habit. He arrives home punctually at five every evening, sits and has a quiet drink before talking to Mary about his day, and takes Mary out to dinner every Thursday. There is no suggestion that there is another woman in Patrick’s life, or that he even has time for one. Perhaps Dahl is leaving room for us to ask ourselves whether Mary could be the one with a problem.

Mary comes across as being greatly in need of Patrick’s attention. Consider this example. We are told that: She knew he didn’t want to speak much until the first drink was finished. Also that: She especially (loved) the way he remained silent about his tiredness, sitting still with himself until the whiskey had taken some of it away. However, rather than letting Patrick sit quietly on the night of the story, she asks whether he is tired when he is only half way through his first drink. Patrick’s reaction (saying “yes” and then finishing the glass in one ) suggests that he is not happy with either the question or its timing. Could it be that he finds Mary too y or demanding?

Or could Mary have an even bigger problem? At the end of their talk, Patrick says to Mary: Of course I’ll give you money and see you’re looked after. There is a suggestion here that Mary is in need of some kind of special care. Perhaps more importantly, he makes no mention of the baby. Rather than telling Mary that he was leaving her for another woman, Patrick could well have said that he was leaving her (or that she had to go somewhere) because she had some kind of medical or mental condition. This would better explain Mary’s actions throughout the rest of the story, as well as Patrick’s next comments: But there needn’t really be any fuss. I hope not anyway. It wouldn’t be very good for my job.


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(n: idiom pl idioms) An expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but has a meaning of its own which is generally understood by the native speakers of a language. It's a piece of cake. [= It's very easy.] It costs an arm and a leg. [= It's very expensive.] He has kicked the bucket. [= He is dead.] (สำนวน) 8000

slaughter(v: slaughter, slaughters, slaughtered, slaughtering) 1. To kill [an animal] for food. Slaughter cattle/sheep. (ฆ่าสัตว์เพื่อเป็นอาหาร) 2. To kill in a cruel or violent way, especially in large numbers. Hundreds of people were slaughtered by the invaders. (สังหารหมู่) 3. To defeat [someone or something] easily or completely. Our team got slaughtered in our last game. (การแพ้อย่างราบคาบ) 4000

innocent(adj: innocent) 1. Not guilty of a crime or other wrong act. She was found innocent of all charges. (ซึ่งไม่มีความผิด) 2. Not deserving to be harmed; not intended to cause harm or trouble. An innocent victim/bystander/question. (ไม่มีพิษมีภัย) 3. Not having experience with the world and the bad things that happen in life. An innocent child (ซึ่งไร้เดียงสา)
(adv: innocently) In an innocent way. She smiled innocently at him. (อย่างรู้เท่าไม่ถึงการณ์) 4000

bone(n: bone pl bones) The hard substance forming the skeleton of man, animals etc. (กระดูก) 2000

cellar(n: cellar pl cellars) A part of a building that is below or partly below the ground, often used to store coal or wine. Also called 'the basement'. (ห้องใต้ดิน) 4000

cheerful(adj: cheerful) 1. Feeling or showing happiness. 2. Causing good feelings or happiness. (ที่ทำให้รู้สึกสดชื่น) 4000

cheesecake(n: cheesecake pl cheesecakes) A cake with a sweet filling usually made of cheese, eggs, and sugar. (ชีส เค้ก) 6000

club(n: club pl clubs) 1. A heavy wooden stick used as a weapon. (กระบอง) 2. A group of people who meet to participate in an activity (สโมสร) or a place where such people meet (สถานเริงรมย์). 1000

crash(v: crash, crashes, crashed, crashing) 1. To damage something (such as a car) by causing it to hit something. She crashed the car into a tree, but no one was hurt. (การชนกัน) 2. To make a loud noise by falling, hitting something, etc. The glass crashed to the floor. (ตกลงพร้อมเสียงดัง) 3000

darling(n: darling pl darlings) A person you love very much. This is my darling daughter, Sara. (ที่รัก) 4000

detective(n: detective pl detectives) 1. A police officer whose job is to find information about crimes that have occurred and to catch criminals. She is a detective on the police force. 2. A person whose job is to find information about something or someone; a private investigator. She hired a detective to follow her husband. (นักสืบ) 2000

fingerprints(n: fingerprint pl fingerprints) 1. The mark that is made by pressing the tip of a finger on a surface. Everyone has a unique fingerprint. 2. A mark of this kind made in ink for the purpose of identifying a person. The police took her fingerprints for their files. (ลายนิ้วมือ) 8000

freeze(v: freeze, freezes, froze, frozen, freezing) 1. To make or be very cold. (หนาวมาก) 2. To be become a hard substance (such as ice) because of cold. (กลายเป็นน้ำแข็ง)
(adj: frozen) 1. Turned into or covered with ice; affected by long and severe cold. A frozen lake. 2. Preserved by freezing. Frozen food. (ซึ่งเป็นน้ำแข็ง) 2000

freezer(n: freezer pl freezers) A refrigerator, refrigerator compartment, cabinet, or room held at or below 32°F (0°C), used for freezing food or keeping it frozen. Don't forget to put the ice cream back in the freezer. (ห้องแช่แข็ง) 2000

gentle(adj: gentle) 1. [of people] Behaving, talking etc in a soft, kind, pleasant way. The doctor was very gentle. (อ่อนโยน) 2. Not strong or rough. A gentle wind. (ค่อย ๆ; นุ่มนวล) 3. [of hills] Rising gradually. A gentle slope (ค่อย ๆ)
(adv: gently) In a gentle way. (อย่างสุภาพ) 3000

grocery(n: grocery pl groceries) A store that sells food and household items. Originally, grocery stores only sold 'dry good' )food that came in tins, packets, jars, boxes, etc). In modern times, they have developed into supermarkets which sell many more things such as cold drinks, frozen food, meat, fruit, vegetables, etc. (ของชำ)
(n: groceries, noncount) Food and household items. (ร้านขายของชำ) 4000
(n: grocer pl grocers) A person who sells groceries. (คนขายของชำ) 6000

horror(n: horror pl horrors) 1. A very strong feeling of fear or dislike. (ความหวาดกลัว) 2. A disagreeable person or thing. Her little boy is an absolute horror. (คน หรือสิ่งที่คอยขัดแย้ง) 3000
(adj:ˈhorrible) 1. Causing horror; frightening; dreadful. A horrible sight. (น่าเกลียดน่ากลัว) 2. Very bad or unpleasant. What a horrible day! (ไม่น่ายินดี) 2000
(v: horrify, horrifies, horrified, horrifying) To cause (someone) to feel horror or shock; to greatly upset and shock (someone). (ทำให้ น่ากลัว) 4000

ice bucket(n: ice bucket pl ice buckets) 1. A small insulated container with a lid, used for holding ice. 2. A similar container without a lid used to cool bottles placed inside it. (ถังน้ำแข็ง)

lamb(n: lamb pl lambs) 1. A young sheep. The ewe has had three lambs (ลูกแกะ) 2. (noncount) The meat of a young sheep eaten as food. A roast leg of lamb. (เนื้อแกะ) 3. A lovable or gentle person, usually used to talk about a child. The poor lamb. (ไร้พิษภัย) 3000

murder(n: murder pl murders) The crime of deliberately killing a person. (การฆาตกรรม) 2000

oven(n: oven pl ovens) A closed box-like space, usually part of a cooker or stove, which is heated for baking or roasting food. (เตาอบ) 3000

patience(n: patience, noncount) 1. The quality of being patient. Able to: (i) wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset; (ii) stay calm when dealing with problems or difficult people; (iii) give attention to something for a long time. (ความอดทน) 2. The British name for a card game played by one person, also called Solitaire. (เล่นไพ่คนเดียว) 2000

pea(n: pea pl peas) A small, round, green seed that is eaten as a vegetable. Formed in a seed case (called a pod) of a climbing plant. (พืชตระกูลถั่ว) 4000

sergeant(n: sergeant pl sergeants) In the army or police force, the highest position before becoming an officer. (สิบเอก)
(n: sergeant major pl sergeant majors or sergeants major) The highest rank of sergeant. (จ่าสิบเอก) 3000

sew(v: sew, sewed, sewn, sewing) To make or repair something (such as a piece of clothing) by using a needle and thread. (เย็บโดยใช้เข็ม)
(n: sewing, noncount) 1. The act or process of sewing. I learned sewing at school. (การเย็บ) 2. Things that are used for sewing or that are being sewn. She took her sewing into the kitchen. (งานที่ต้องเย็บ) 3000

shock(n: shock pl shocks) A sudden usually unpleasant or upsetting feeling caused by something unexpected. (อาการตกใจสุดขีด) 2000

skull(n: skull pl skulls) The bones that form the head and face of a person or animal and protect the brain. (กะโหลก) 5000

slippers(n: slipper pl slippers) A light, soft shoe that is easily put on and taken off and is usually worn indoors. (รองเท้าแตะ) 5000

supper(n: supper pl suppers) A usually light meal taken at the end of the day. (อาหารมื้อเย็น) 3000

(n: torch pl torches) 1. A long stick with material at one end that burns brightly. (คบไฟ) 2. A small portable light worked by an electric battery. Also called a 'flashlight' in American English (ไฟฉาย) 3000

torch flashlight

upset(v: upset, upsets, upset, upsetting) To make someone feel unhappy or a little angry. (เศร้า) 2000

whiskey(n: whiskey pl whiskeys; British wiskey) A strong alcoholic drink made from a grain such as corn, rye, or barley; usually contains 40-50% alcohol by volume. (วิสกี้) 3000

whisper(n: whisper pl whispers) A very quiet sound, especially something said. (การกระซิบ; การส่งเสียงเบา ๆ)
(v: whisper, whispers, whispered, whispering) To speak or say something very softly. (กระซิบ) 5000

closet(n: closet, pl closets) A usually small room that is used for storing things (such as clothing, towels, or dishes). The sheets and blankets are in the hall closet. (ตู้) 3000

counter(n: counter pl counters) A piece of furniture with a flat top that workers and customers stand on opposite sides of when doing business. (โต๊ะขนาดยาว) 2000

cracker(n: cracker pl crackers) A thin dry biscuit that is usually unsweetened or has a salty taste and is often eaten with cheese. (ขนมปังกรอบ ไม่หวาน) 3000

hysterical(adj: hysterical) 1. Of or suffering from state in which your emotions (such as fear, excitement, anger, etc) are so strong that you behave in an uncontrolled way. A few of the children began to scream, and soon they were all caught up in the hysteria. (เกิดอารมณ์ที่ควบคุมตัวเองไม่ได้) 2. Wildly funny; hilarious. I think his movies are hysterical. (ตลกขบขัน) 4000
(adv: hysterically) In a hysterical way. The child was crying/laughing hysterically. His movies are hysterically funny.

kneel(v: kneel, kneels, knelt, kneeling) To move your body so that one or both of your knees are on the floor. (นั่งคุกเข่า) 5000

punctual(adj: punctual) Arriving or doing something at the expected or planned time. The buses here are very punctual. (ตรงเวลา)
(n: punctuality, noncount) The state of being punctual. The workers received bonuses for punctuality. (ความตรงเวลา)
(adv: punctually) On time. He arrived punctually at 9.00 am. (อย่างตรงเวลา) 7000

relief(n: relief, noncount) 1. A pleasant and relaxed feeling that someone has when something unpleasant stops or does not happen. Much to everyone's relief, the airplane landed without any problems. 2. The removal or reducing of something that is painful or unpleasant. Exercise is an excellent source of stress relief. (การผ่อนคลาย) 2000

(n: sake pl sakes) The benefit or interest of someone or something. Used in phrases with 'for' to say that something is done to help a particular person or thing (e.g. We must do it for the sake of our country). (เป็นประโยชน์)
(interj) Used in phrases with 'for' to express anger, annoyance, surprise, etc. (e.g. For God's sake! For goodness sake! For Heaven's sake! ) 2000

sideboard(n: sideboard pl sideboards) A piece of dining-room furniture that has drawers and shelves for holding dishes, silverware, table linen, etc. (ตู้เก็บจานชาม) 6000

sob(v: sob, sobs, sobbed, sobbing) 1. To cry noisily while taking in short, sudden breaths. (สะอื้นสะอื้น) 2. To say something while doing this. (ส่งเสียงร่ำไห้) 7000

sway(v: sway, sways, swayed, swaying) 1. To (cause to) move from side to side or up and down with a swinging or rocking action. The branches swayed gently in the breeze. (แกว่งไปมา) 2. To cause (someone) to agree with you or to change their opinion. She's too easily swayed by her feelings. (ลังเลใจ) 6000

vase(n: vase pl vases) A container that is used for holding flowers or for decoration. A vase of flowers. (แจกัน) 5000

vomit(v: vomit, vomits, vomited, vomiting) To have the food, liquid, etc., that is in your stomach come out through your mouth because you are sick. Whenever the ship started to move she felt like vomiting. (อาเจียน) 5000

drawhansom cab(v: draw, draws, drew, drawn, drawing) 1. To make (a picture, image, etc.) by making lines on a surface, especially with a pencil, crayon, etc. but not usually with paint. He drew a picture of a flower. (วาดภาพ) 2. To move (something) by pulling. The carriage was drawn by two horses. (ดึง) 3. To move towards or away from someone or something. Christmas is drawing closer. (ลากออกไป) 4. To choose (a thing) from a group without knowing which one you are choosing. We drew names from a hat to decide who would go on the trip. 1000

air(n: air, noncount) 1. The invisible mixture of gases that surrounds the Earth and that people and animals breathe. I like the fresh mountain air. (อากาศธาตุ) 2. The space above the ground; the sky. Birds fly through the air. (อากาศ) 3. A quality or appearance that a person or thing has. (กลิ่นอาย)The old house had an air of mystery. (กลิ่นอาย) 1000

pregnant(adj: pregnant) (of a woman or female animal) Having a baby or babies developing inside the body. (มีครรภ์) 2000

touch up(phrasal verb: touch up) To improve (something) by making small changes or additions. She touched up the photographs on the computer. (ปรุงแต่ง)

make-up(n: make-up or makeup, noncount) Substances (such as lipstick or powder) used to make someone's face look more attractive. She put on some makeup before the party. (เครื่องสำอาง) 13000

blow(v: blow, blows, blew, blown, blowing) 1. [of a current of air] To be moving. The wind blew more strongly. (พัด) 2. To cause air or something carried by air to move. Please blow into this tube! (เป่า)
(n: blow pl blows) 1. A hard hit using a part of the body or an object. He delivered a blow to the head. (การตี) 2. A sudden event that causes trouble, damage, sorrow, etc. Her husband's death was a terrible blow. (โชคร้ายโดยไม่คาดคิด) 1000

author(n: author pl authors) The person who has written something; someone who writes books or stories, especially a person who has written many books or stories. I enjoyed the book, but I can't remember the name of its author. (ผู้ เขียน) 3000

moreover(adv: moreover) In addition to what has already been said; furthermore. (ซ้ำร้าย) 7000

swallow(v: swallow, swallows, swallowed, swallowing) To take (something) into your stomach through your mouth and throat. (กลืน) 3000

cling(v: cling, clings, clung, clinging) 1. To hold onto something or someone very tightly. The children clung to their father as he said goodbye. 2. To stick to something or someone. The shirt clung to his wet shoulders. 3. (often disapproving) To stay very close to someone for emotional support, protection, etc. A clinging child. (ติดกัน)
(adj: clingy, clingier, clingiest) Used to ​describe something or someone that clings. A clingy dress/child. 4000

A 24 minute film from the ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ British television series, with personal introduction by Roald Dahl. This is episode 4 of Season 1. To watch online, click here. To download the mp4, click here.

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