illustrated tablesetting with a plate containing a large lamb-leg roast resting on a puddle of blood

Lamb to the Slaughter

by Roald Dahl

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Literary Devices and Elements in "Lamb to the Slaughter"


"Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl employs various literary devices and elements, including irony, symbolism, and foreshadowing. The title itself is an example of irony, as it refers both to the murder weapon and the unsuspecting victim. Symbolism is evident in the leg of lamb, which represents both domesticity and violence. Foreshadowing is used to hint at the story's dark twist.

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What are examples of similes, alliteration, and personification in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

Roald Dahl's short story "Lamb to the Slaughter" contains numerous poetic, or rhetorical, devices. Prior to providing the examples of specific devices, allow the devices in question to be defined. 

Simile--A comparison between two typically dissimilar things (using "like" or "as"). For example, the following is a simile: My life is like a highway. In this example, the speaker's life is compared to a highway (meaning it changes direction, moves forward, and has its ups and downs--like a road). Here is an example of a simile found in the text: "She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel - almost as a sunbather feels the sun." Here, the narrator defines that the closeness of Mary's husband feels like the warmth of the sun.

Alliteration is typically reserved for poetry (being defined as the repetition of a consonant sound within a line of poetry). That said, one can identify alliterative lines within Dahl's text.  In the opening line,"The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn" alliteration exists. Both the repeating "w" and "c" sound illustrate alliteration. 

Personification is the giving of human characteristics to non-human and non-living things. For example, the sun smiled is an example of personification. The sun, a non-human object, cannot smile. This text does not contain any examples of personification. 

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What are examples of similes, alliteration, and personification in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

Absolutley! Similies, alliteration, and personification are all literary devices that are used in writing. 

Similies are comparisons using the words "like" or "as". For example, if someone said "the stars were shining like diamonds in the sky," he/she is using a similie because they are comparing stars to diamonds using the word "like".

Here are some more examples of similies:

After days without food, I was as hungry as a bear.

The star athlete was as fast as lightning.

The hurricane winds sounded like a jet engine.

Alliteration is when you use several words beginning with the same letter/sound in a row. Have you heard of "tongue twisters"? These are often examples of alliteration. For example, "Sally sells seashells by the seashore."

Here are some more examples of alliteration:

George gave gallons of gas to Gertrude.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

Arthur Ashe was an amazing athlete.

Bugs Bunny

As you can see, not everyword has to start with the same sound. Also, it can be as simple as two names that start with the same letter - such as "Bugs Bunny" or "Daffy Duck".

Personification is when you give human qualities to something that isn't human. For example, when someone says "the thunder screamed," they are using personification because screaming is a characteristic of humans, and thunder is not human -- or even alive!

Here are some more examples of personification:

The droplet of water danced at the end of the icicle as the temperature began to arise and melt away the ice.

Time raced away as Billy began his big final exam.

The dark gray car seemed to jump out in front of me just as I turned my attention back to the road.

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What are examples of simile, personification, and mood in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

A simile is a comparison between two items using the words "like" or "as".  Her eyes were as blue as the sky and like huge, round sapphires when she smiled.

Personification is giving human qualities to any inanimate object.  Basically, it's making the object like a "person".  The wind whispered his name and tortured her with his memory.  Wind is not a living entity, so it can not whisper or torture. 

Mood is the feeling of the atmosphere in the story.  This can be achieved with lots of different things...stormy weather and wind, rain, thunder, lightening gives an ominous or threatening and angry mood.  Mood can be tense, happy, anxious, angry, frightened...basically any emotion humans can feel can be conveyed through description, language, and interactions with characters.  Sounds devices can also be used to achieve mood.  An angry person may use words that contain many hard consonant sounds which will give it a more clipped, hurried, and angry feeling.  Take this example from the Red Badge of Courage:

Besides, a faith in himself had secretly blossomed. There was a little flower of confidence growing within him. He was now a man of experience. He had been out among the dragons, he said, and he assured himself that they were not so hideous as he had imagined them. Also, they were inaccurate; they did not sting with precision. A stout heart often defied, and defying, escaped.

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What are examples of metaphor, conflict, mood, climax, tension, and resolution in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

The title is both literal—a "lamb" (or frozen lamb chop) is used to "slaughter" Mary's husband—and metaphoric, for Mary is the "lamb to the slaughter" or innocent victim of her husband's decision to divorce her while heavily pregnant, leaving her as a single mother. In another metaphor, Mary thinks of her husband as the sun, and herself, in a simile, as a sunbather, basking in his warm light.

An internal conflict immediately arises in Mary as she hears her husband's words about divorce. It is a conflict between denial and accepting reality:

Her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all. It occurred to her that perhaps he hadn’t even spoken, that she herself had imagined the whole thing. Maybe, if she went about her business and acted as though she hadn’t been listening, then later, when she sort of woke up again, she might find none of it had ever happened.

Mary resolves that inner conflict by accepting reality and whacking her husband with the lamb chop. After that she is faced with the external conflict of how to hide the fact that she is the murderer.

Dahl uses simple language and Mary's point-of-view to create an opening mood that is calm and loving, painting Mary as a virtual Madonna in her careful homemaking and adoration of her husband. This heightens the shock when this seemingly sweet and innocent woman brutally murders her husband, although her former adoration makes it psychologically plausible that she would do this.

The tension around whether or not Mary will be blamed for the crime is resolved as the police officers cheerfully eat the evidence.

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What are examples of metaphor, conflict, mood, climax, tension, and resolution in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

Covering some of the other points you have asked about, let's look at the climax. In "Lamb to the Slaughter," the climax occurs when Mary murders her husband, Patrick, with a leg of lamb. This occurs just moments after Patrick's shocking divorce announcement, which leaves Mary reeling and builds the tension. As for the resolution, it could be argued that there isn't one because Mary feeds the murder weapon to the police detectives, enabling her to get away with the murder.

Finally, the mood of "Lamb to the Slaughter" is subject to change. At the beginning of the story, for instance, the mood is calm and almost dream-like. Mary is waiting patiently for Patrick to return and has made sure that the house is in order to receive him. But the mood changes and becomes violent and hostile when Mary murders Patrick. Dahl descriptively illustrates this change:

"The violence of the crash, the noise, the small table overturning, helped to bring her out of the shock."

By the end of the story, however, the peaceful mood is restored as the detectives sit in the kitchen, pondering (rather ironically) what has become of the murder weapon.

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What are examples of metaphor, conflict, mood, climax, tension, and resolution in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?

We don't have room here for me to cover them all, but I will get you started.

Internal conflict is best shown in Mary.  She is at war with herself when she finds out her happy home is not happy and about to disappear all together.  She solves this conflict by killing her husband.  Then she has to figure out how to hide the evidence, also an internal conflict.

The external conflicts are Mary vs. her husband and Mary vs. the police.  In both situations, Mary must defend herself against what she views as an attack.  When her husband says he is leaving, she fights back by killing him.  When the police arrive to investigate, she fights back by deceiving them.

A metaphor in this story is in the title itself.  Mary is a lamb due for slaughter - her happiness is slaughtered by her husband, even though she is innocent.  The lamb that she uses to kill her husband is a metaphor for herself.

The tension in this story comes from dramatic irony - we as readers know that Mary is guilty, and are concerned that the police will find out.  We also know that the police are eating the murder weapon, even as they discuss what the murder weapon is - more tension and more irony.

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Identify a simile, metaphor, emotive word, and hyphenated word in "Lamb to the Slaughter".

"Lamb to the Slaughter" is a short story by Roald Dahl that explores the intimate details of marital problems. Mary Maloney was married happily to Patrick Maloney, but one day he comes home and tells her that he is leaving her. She does not take this well, being a loving and serving wife, and she hits him in the head with a frozen leg of lamb and kills him. She ends up getting away with it because when the police arrive, they end up eating the now-cooked leg of lamb.

Dahl uses several different literary devices to craft his story including simile, metaphor, emotive language, and hyphenated words. Here are some examples of different ways he uses them and why:

  • A simile is a comparison using like or as, Dahl uses simile when describing the hardness of the leg of lamb—“She might just as well hit him with a steel club.” The use of simile helps the reader understand why a frozen leg of lamb could kill someone with a strike to the head and explains why it was the perfect weapon.
  • A metaphor makes a comparison directly. The most important metaphor in the story is the title itself. Mary Maloney is the “lamb to the slaughter”: an innocent person who is easily beaten down by the words of her husband Patrick when he threatens to leave her. Her husband could also be the lamb, as he is the one who is murdered or “slaughtered”.
  • Emotive language brings about feelings that non-emotive language leaves out. An example from the story would be the sentence “She came out slowly, feeling cold and surprised, and she stood for a while blinking at the body, still holding the ridiculous piece of meat tight with both hands.” The language is emotive when it talks about things like “feeling cold and surprised” and “ridiculous,” all of which bring an emotional reaction out of the reader.
  • Hyphenated phrases are used to show the close relation of two things. In this case, the use of “alight-hers” in the first paragraph shows the close relationship between the light in the living room and the main character Mary Maloney.
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Identify a simile, metaphor, emotive word, and hyphenated word in "Lamb to the Slaughter".

I've included definitions to ensure that you understand what each one is as well as examples.

Simile (A comparison using like or as): " to feel-almost as a sunbather feels the sun-that warm male glow"

Metaphor(A direct comparison by saying one thing IS another): "There was a slow smiling air about her"

Emotive(Words containing postitive or negative connotations): "tranquil", "blissful", " frantic"

Hyphenated word (A word with a hyphen separating the two parts...generally these are nouns): "bone-end"

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