Why is it Called Lamb to the Slaughter?

What is the Origin of the Phrase? Why is it Called Lamb to the Slaughter? Is the Story of the Lamb to the Slaughter a Real Story? Who is the Lamb in the Story? What is the Conclusion and Moral of the Story?
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The English Language has several idioms and metaphors that we use in different situations. Well, the first recorded and the earliest use of idioms was by an English poet, Henry Pye, in his work Amusement. It was a poetic essay that was published in 1790 in The British Journal. While we are on the topic, do you know why is it called lamb to the slaughter? Is Lamb to the Slaughter a real story? Who is the lamb in the Lamb to the Slaughter? Let’s explore this story plot and learn how to use this phrase.

1. What is the Origin of the Phrase Lamb to the Slaughter?

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Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

According to the researchers, the phrase seems to have appeared in several biblical books, the Old Testament books of Isaiah and Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 11:19 it is said,

  • But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter, and I knew not that they had devised against me, saying, let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.
  • Another phrase with a similar meaning appeared in Isaiah 53:7, which says: He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep, before her shearers are dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
  • Another testament from the new story of Jesus coincides with the phrase as it holds the meaning of the crucifixion of innocent Jesus.

2. Why is it called Lamb to the Slaughter?

Whenever a person is brought into such a situation that can lead to their demise, either physically or from his status, he is regarded as the lamb to the slaughter. But, why is it called lamb to the slaughter? You must have seen a lamb brought to the slaughter about which he is unaware. When a human is brought to his demise in the same way, it is termed as the lamb to the slaughter. Check out Why Do We Say Break A Leg?

Some examples of this phrase are:

  • He was unaware of the happenings in the country; he simply walked into it like a lamb to the slaughter
  • A soldier told the teammates, that the seniors pushed him into the trap like a lamb to the slaughter
  • Without realizing the odds, we proved to be like lambs to the slaughter to them

3. Is Lamb to the Slaughter a Real Story?

A lamb sitting in the field in bright dun. Topic - Why Is It Called Lamb to the Slaughter Pic #2
Photo by Arjan Stalpers on Unsplash

It is a fictional story of a couple written by the British novelist, Roald Dahl. So, if you ask, is lamb to the slaughter a real story, the answer is no, it is not a real story. The author is known as one of the greatest storytellers of children in the 26th century. His other works include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Matilda, The BFG, the Witches, etc. The lamb to the slaughter is the story of two fictional characters namely Mary Maloney and Patrick. To know why is it called lamb to the slaughter in the story, read till the end. Must read Summary of Sleeping Beauty Story Book.

4. Who is the Lamb in the Lamb to the Slaughter?

After learning why is it called lamb to the slaughter, consider reading about the reference in the story. Referring to the novel, many people consider the lamb in the story to be Patrick, the husband. While others consider it to be pregnant Mary Maloney, who was waiting for her husband to have dinner with him, but instead she was bombed with the news that he wants separation. (See How many Harry Potter books are there?)

5. Where did the Story Begin?

This short story opens with the scene where a pregnant Mary Maloney awaits her husband, Patrick. She is a housewife and he is a policeman. Usually, the couple goes to eat out on Thursdays but considering the tiredness of her husband she suggested she prepare something at home. She brought slippers for her husband as his feet were aching and headed towards preparing the dinner. However, Patrick declines her and asks her not to prepare dinner and instead sit beside him as he needs to talk about something. (Also read Which are the 66 books of the Bible, in the same order as listed in the book?)

6. What Shocked the Wife?

The pregnant wife, Mary Maloney, was waiting for her husband to speak up about what he wanted to say. Well, the exact words are not mentioned in the story. In the story, it was mentioned that he said something shocking to his pregnant wife, and she watched him in dazed horror.

She sat still in her chair, while her husband told her that he wants separation from her. Considering why is it called lamb to the slaughter in the story, it can be assumed that Mary is the lamb. Although he agreed to support her financially after separation, he also expects her not to make a fuss about all this as it would affect his job. (See What is the Setting of the Gift of the Magi?)

7. How did She React?

For the first 4 to 5 minutes, she was completely in shock and just kept staring at him. After which she enters into denial mode and decides to act normally as if nothing happened. She thought that if she did it all the problems would just go away. Without responding to Patrick, she got up and went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. This is when the frozen lamb leg comes into the scene. Mary took the frozen lamb leg out of the freezer to prepare it for dinner. (See Pinocchio Story Summary)

8. What did She do with the Lamb Leg?

Why is it Called Lamb to the Slaughter

She told him that she was preparing the lamb leg for dinner to which he replied that he is going out and there is no need to prepare dinner for him. After listening to his plan, Mary walks behind him with the frozen lamb leg in her hand and hits his head with it. Yes, Mary hit her husband on his head with the frozen lamb leg that was hard as a rock while he was looking outside the window. (See What is the Theme of The Masque of the Red Death?)

9. How did Patrick React?

Patrick was not in a condition to react anymore because after she hit him, he could not take the blow and he died. Here it turns out that the phrase- why is it called lamb to the slaughter, refers to Patrick! It is not clearly mentioned in the story whether she did it on purpose or she was reacting this way because of the shock.

However, after realizing that she had killed her husband, the first thought that struck her was of her unborn child. She instantly began to think about her next step, which she needs to create an alibi to prove that she was not with her husband at the time of the murder. (See How this Book was Made?)

10. What happened to the Evidence of the Murder?

Before doing anything else, she washed and cleaned the leg of the lamb and placed it in the oven to cook. It was the only evidence of the murder. She decided to visit the nearest grocery store where she usually visits. But before that, she practiced what she has to say. She knew this trip to the local grocer must seem normal. (See Why did Dumbledore have to Die in Harry Potter?)

11. Who was the Alibi?

She decided to visit the local grocery store because she wants the store owner Sam to be his alibi. She visited the store and asked Sam for some vegetables. She intentionally mentioned that she is cooking the lamb leg for Patrick at dinner. She then asks for his opinion regarding what could go best with the food. Sam suggested for desserts, she could take cheesecakes as they are the best. Mary showed that she was elated and that Patrick loves the cheesecakes while she purchased them. (See Odysseus is called to Adventure When He was?)

12. What happened after She returned Home?

I wonder why is it called lamb to the slaughter if no one was innocent like the lamb? Now, she has an alibi and the murder evidence is almost cooked. Then, she immediately called the police reporting that she had just returned from the grocery shop and found her husband dead in their house. The investigation started and as the process usually goes, police went to the grocery store and questioned Sam about Mary. He mentioned that there was nothing unusual when she visited him. (See Does Peeta die in The Hunger Games?)

13. How did the Investigation go?

One of the policemen gathered information from the alibi while others searched the house for the murder weapon because they believed that it could be something heavy and metallic. They turned the entire house upside down, but they could not find any such thing with the marks of the murder or attack on it. The body of Patrick is removed from the house which is when one of the policemen noticed that the lamb leg is still cooking in the oven. (Also read The Story of an Hour Themes)

14. What happened to the Lamb Leg?

The Policeman questioned about the lamb leg to which Mary responds that she could not eat after whatever happened to her husband. Instead, she offered the meal to the policeman saying that they had been working past dinner time, and they must be hungry. The policemen refused and hesitated but with her continuous insisting they sat at the dinner table and began eating. Little did they know that they were consuming the evidence.

While eating one of the policemen said that, the evidence is somewhere under their nose, and hearing this Mary quietly laughs to herself standing in one corner. Anyway, do you know why is it called lamb to the slaughter when the lamb that slaughtered Patrick was enjoyed in dinner? (See What is The Cask of Amontillado All About?)

15. What was the Conclusion or Moral of the Story?

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Through this short story, Ronald Dahl tries to convey the message that it is not right to make assumptions about anyone, no matter how long they have known them. In the story, Patrick assumed that his wife would accept the divorce and that she is not capable of taking any actions. While assuming this, he underestimated her anger and her willingness to react. However, killing her husband may not be her intention but no one assumed that she will cover it up so wisely that even the police officers took her as an innocent pregnant lady who just became a widow.

So, today you got to know why is it called lamb to the slaughter and about the person who is the lamb in the Lamb to the Slaughter. But after reading the story, did you wonder whether is lamb to the slaughter a real story or just fiction and exactly why is it called lamb to the slaughter in the story? (See Can you say Fair Winds and Following Seas when Someone dies?

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