“Lamb to the Slaughter” was written in the first full decade of Dahl’s writing career, which fell squarely into what is referred to as the Post-War period (roughly 1942-1952). The Western world underwent massive cultural change during this period, as cities grew and many moved into urban landscapes. The Civil Rights movement was just beginning, and women, young people, and minorities were starting to demand change. However, America and Britain still clung closely to some normative ideals, including those concerning divorce. At the time, divorce was not as accepted as it is today, which puts Mary’s violent reaction to Patrick’s abandonment into some perspective. She would be in much better standing were she a widow rather than divorced.

“Lamb to the Slaughter” was also published at a time when television was becoming a dominant medium in the United States and Britain. Particularly popular at the time were anthology series helmed by renowned filmmakers focusing on grotesque characters in suburban and therefore nominally believable settings. “Lamb to the Slaughter” carries with it a similar structure to one of these anthology episodes. The cast is kept to a minimum and there are two settings befitting a drama’s budget (the Maloney household and the grocery store). Most importantly, the story structure is such that the audience is along for the ride with the protagonist while characters like the detectives are left in the dark, as in a black comedy. Fittingly, Dahl was given the opportunity to adapt “Lamb to the Slaughter” five years after publication. He wrote the teleplay for its eponymous 1958 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He would do so again for his own televised anthology series in 1979 for Tales of the Unexpected.