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Tasks: Lamb to the Slaughter

Tasks based on the short story "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl.

Comprehension

  1. What had Mary Maloney been looking forward to when her husband returned home from work?
  2. How did her husband behave when he came home?
  3. What did he finally reveal to her?
  4. When did she start contemplating murder? How was it carried out?
  5. Why did she decide to go to the grocer's?
  6. What did she tell the police?
  7. Were the police interested in anything in particular?
  8. Apart from the leg of lamb, would you say that the policemen overlooked any clues or failed to ask any significant questions?
  9. Mary Maloney seemed to get away with murder. What moral lesson do you draw from this?

Discuss

  1. Is there a villain in this story?
  2. Where do you think the author's sympathy lies?
  3. If you are familiar with Roald Dahl novels like Matilda, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and The Witches, do you think they have anything in common with this short story?
  4. What do you think makes Roald Dahl one of the world's most successful children's writers?
  5. What makes "Lamb to the Slaughter" adult fiction?

Writing/Presentation

  1. You are a fly on the wall in the Maloney home. Write a report of what you witnessed on the day of the murder.
  2. Use Movie Maker or Photo Story and make a presentation of the fly's observations from the wall. Add sound effects.

Literary Analysis

Try to analyse the short story. If in doubt about literary terms, check literary animations.

  1. What makes this a short story and not a play?
  2. Describe the setting.
  3. Describe Mary Maloney and her husband. Some of the information is implied (indirect characterisation) and some is written in plain words (direct characterisation). Make two columns for the types of characterisation and list your findings.
  4. Make a graph showing the tension building up to a climax in the short story. Add keywords from the story to show what you are referring to in the graph.
  5. Look up the characteristics of a short story. Do you think "Lamb to the Slaughter" is a typical short story?
  6. The story is told from Mary's point of view. Select an episode and rewrite this part from the husband’s point of view. How important is point of view in such a story?
  7. What is the theme of this short story?
  8. Explain the double meaning in the title.
  9. Do you find any foreshadowing in the text? Explain.

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