Quote 1

The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight—hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.

This description of a cozy, orderly home with the curtains drawn in gentle, fortress-like protection is the opening paragraph of the story. In the suspense genre, such apparent perfection is fodder for forces of destruction and particularly so in the disconcerting writing style of Roald Dahl. Only the first sentence is grammatically complete. The next two sentences are mere fragments. The fact that they are punctuated as if they are complete sentences strikes an ominous chord, underlying the fact that this seemingly typical night in the Maloney household is bound to lead in a different direction.

Quote 2

It wasn’t till then that she began to get frightened.

Patrick’s behavior throughout the opening scene has been uncharacteristically discourteous and cold toward Mary, and her apprehensions have been subtle but growing. At this point, he rudely orders her to sit down and then repeats the order in softened words. Her reaction to the change is genuine fear. Because the story follows Mary’s point of view through an omniscient narrator, Mary’s first experience of fear increases the reader’s sense of foreboding.

Quote 3

'For God’s sake,' he said, hearing her, but not turning round. 'Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out.'

Mary has endured Patrick’s callousness and is willing to believe that she may have hallucinated his confession, and that the relationship has not really changed. But when Patrick utters these heartless words without even turning around to face her, Mary swiftly kills him, and thus catapults the plot forward.

Quote 4

What were the laws about murderers with unborn children? Did they kill then both-mother and child? Or did they wait until the tenth month? What did they do?

These rapid, disturbing thoughts provide the motivation for Mary to spring into action, and to apply the hidden tenacity necessary to form and complete a plan to cover up her crime. Mary’s is the only mind the narrator actually enters. The other characters in the story are available to the reader only through ways in which Mary can see, hear, or think about them. Therefore, the reader knows for certain what motivates Mary; what motivates the other characters can only be guessed.