Aside from foreshadowing, what literary devices does Roald Dahl use in "Lamb to the Slaughter?"

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Lamb to the Slaughter," Roald Dahl uses a number of literary devices. Here are a few examples:

  • Imagery: Dahl employs an auditory image to describe Patrick's return from work: Mary hears the car tyres on the stones, the car door closing, and his footsteps outside.

"...she heard the tires on the gravel outside, and the car door slamming, the footsteps passing the window, the key turning in the lock."

  • Mood: Dahl creates a dreamy and idyllic atmosphere in the first paragraph by referring to the drawn curtains and low lighting. The mood shifts and becomes tense, however, when Patrick tells Mary that he wants a divorce. This is reinforced by Dahl's references to Mary's "puzzled horror" and "slight sickness."
  • Irony: Mary loves that Patrick never complains about being tired but, in the next paragraph, he says that he is "thoroughly exhausted." There is also irony in the closing lines since the detective had no idea that they are eating the murder weapon. This is also an example of black (or dark) humour.
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Looking at this story, I see a simile towards the beginning, when Mary has first sat down to hang out with Patrick.  The narrator is talking about how sitting with Patrick makes Mary feel.  We are told

She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel-almost as a sunbather feels the sun-that warm male glow that came out of him

So "as a sunbather..." is a simile because it is directly comparing her to someone soaking up the sun's warmth.

I also think there's a bit of hyperbole in a couple of places.  One is where she can't feel her feet as she is going down to the freezer.  The other is where the one policeman says that Patrick's head was like it had been hit with a sledgehammer.

Read the study guide:
Lamb to the Slaughter

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