How is irony used in "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl?

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The main irony of the story is that a meek and mild housewife becomes a murderer—and not just any murderer, but a murderer who expertly covers her tracks and gets away with her crime. In general terms, all of the numerous ironies of the story point toward a role reversal,...

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The main irony of the story is that a meek and mild housewife becomes a murderer—and not just any murderer, but a murderer who expertly covers her tracks and gets away with her crime. In general terms, all of the numerous ironies of the story point toward a role reversal, which is itself ironic. The policemen investigating the crime don't suspect Mary of carrying out this brutal killing. They're still operating under the sexist assumption that Mary, as a loyal and faithful housewife, is simply incapable of such a thing. Detectives are supposed to be inherently suspicious, to go where the evidence leads them and not to assume anything. Yet when it comes to Mary, all that goes by the board, and their sexist assumptions, which had previously kept Mary in a state of subordination, give her a sense of power and control for the first time in her life.

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Irony is one of the most commonly employed literary techniques in "Lamb to the Slaughter." It is ironic, for example, that the main character, Mary, is described early on as having "placid eyes," but she then goes on to murder her husband—the very antithesis of being placid.

Moreover, Patrick's request that Mary does not cause any "problem" for him in the divorce is given an ironic twist by the very fact of his murder. Mary's use of the leg of lamb as a murder weapon is also ironic when the meat that was designed to nourish Patrick is instead used to end his life.

In a final twist, Mary feeds this leg of lamb to the policemen who come to investigate Patrick's death; they sit in her home, with mouths "full of meat," and have no idea they are eating the murder weapon they are so keen to discover.

By employing irony in this way, Dahl adds an element of dark humor to his story and suggests Mary might just get away with murder.

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