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Figurative Language in the Short Story Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

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Literary Devices in the Short Story Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

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Table of Contents

  • Similes
  • Irony
  • Foreshadowing
  • Imagery

Similes

Similes are quite often used within the short story, “Lamb to the Slaughter”. An example of this can be identified in the title, which can also be interpreted as: “Like a lamb to the slaughter” the lamb in the story is used as a symbol of innocence, which unconsciously represents Mary Malone in the initial part of the story, even though then her innocence as a “lamb” gets “slaughtered” by her husband. Secondly, simile used by the writer is: “She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this mankind to feel-almost as a sunbather feels the sun.” This simile demonstrates her initial caring and devoted feelings towards Patrick, until he doesn’t deceive her with his decision. This overcomes her innocence and leads her to kill him. Similes in Lamb to the Slaughter used by Road Dahl has a great impact on the reader because it gives to the story a symbolic meaning that creates a much deeper and significant representation of the character’s personality. The decision of the author of using these literary devices in Lamb to the Slaughter is interesting and at the same time clear because it demonstrates the total evolution of the main character throughout her actions.

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Irony

In the story, the author uses irony as one of Lamb to the Slaughter literary devices. This can be seen in the quote: “”It’d be a favor to me if you’d eat it up. Then you can go on with your work afterwards.” From this quote we can understand how the reader knows that the weapon of the murder is the leg of the lamb, but the detectives don’t, while they are eating it. This creates a pause within the story and within the reader because it makes the reader reflect a lot on whether the police at this point will understand that Mary is the killer of her husband or not. Irony is a major device used by Roald Dahl, even when Patrick says to Mary: “Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out.” Mary here already knows her intentions, and at the same time Patrick isn’t aware that she is going to kill him without giving him the possibility to go out. This moment of the story leaves the reader to wonder whether or not she will make this terrible action. The use of irony within the story has a great impact on the reader by creating strong emotions which give the opportunity to the reader to know what Patrick’s character awaits and on the other hand understand Mary’s intentions.

Foreshadowing

The author builds up suspense within the story, by using foreshadowing. This literature device is used to give the reader a hint of the increasing tension between Mary and Patrick, this is shown when he says: “This is going to be a bit of a shock to you, I’m afraid.” The writer has chosen this technique because he wants to create an uncomfortable situation between the two characters and make it detect to the reader. This leads the reader to think that something negative is going to occur within their relationship, making curiosity increase within the reader’s mind. The descriptions of Mary’s character are build up step after step to make the reader suspect Mary’s change. This creates anticipation within the story using effective writing. The uncertainty created within the reader on Mary’s real intentions is a technique used by the author to create suspense throughout foreshadowing. The use of foreshadowing as a device is effective within Roald Dahl’s short story because it creates dramatic tension within the trend of the story and conveys little information at a time to help the reader understand what could come next.

Imagery

In my opinion, one of the most important literary devices used in lamb to the slaughter, is imagery. We can understand this throughout the descriptive language that the author uses to create visual imagery to describe Mary’s Maloney character:”Her skin for this was her sixth month with child had acquired a wonderful translucent quality, the mouth was soft, and the eyes, with their new placid look, seemed larger darker than before.” This quote implies Mary Maloney as an innocent, sweet and caring wife, by helping the reader visualise better the type of person Mary Maloney is. The same technique is used to make the reader visualise better the atmosphere created within the story:”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.” Imagery in Lamb to the Slaughter is used to create mystery within the reader’s mind, without making the turning point of the story explicit. Throughout the story, imagery has a great impact because it explores within the mind of the reader by transmitting different emotions that give an overall understanding of the circumstances within the story.

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