Theme of Irony in “Lamb to The Slaughter” by Roald Dahl

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In Roald Dahl’s short story “Lamb to the Slaughter,” Dahl conveys dramatic irony through the devious and cold-hearted character of the wife, Mary. After Mary kills her own husband, she goes to the grocery store to set up an alibi. She talks to the clerk to make him think that Patrick is at home waiting for dinner, “‘Patrick’s decided he’s tired and doesn’t want to eat out tonight,’ she told him.’We usually go out Thursdays, you know, and now he’s caught me without any vegetables in the house’”(Dahl 5). This shows dramatic irony because the reader knows that Patrick is dead, while the clerk thinks that he is still alive and waiting for Mary to come back home. Instead of confessing that she is the one that killed her husband, she tricks the police into thinking that she was not home when Patrick got killed. When the police got to the crime scene, they couldn’t find the murder weapon while the reader knows where it is.”

Personally, I think it’s right here on the premises.’ ‘Probably right under our very noses. What you think, Jack?’ And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle”(Dahl 11). Similar to when we knew who the killer was and the clerk didn’t, the police did not know where the murder weapon was while the reader did. When one of the policemen said it’s probably under their noses, it was literally under their noses when they were eating the lamb creating humor. When Mary giggles it shows her wicked personality because instead of feeling guilty for killing her husband, she is happy that she did not get caught. By adding dramatic irony to the story, Dahl was able to create humor and suspense for the reader.

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In the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, the author shifts between reality and fantasy in order to create imagery. In part 1, it describes the setting of the reality where Farquhar is going to be hanged. “A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord” (Bierce 3). The story starts out as reality and the author includes many vivid details to describe Farquhar’s situation. These details help the reader picture exactly what is currently happening and feel sympathy for the condemned man. The author describes the setting as a dark and miserable place. As the story continues, the author shifts into fantasy by bringing us into the imagination of Farquhar escaping his death in part 3. “As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him” (Bierce 12). When the author shifts to fantasy, he also uses many descriptive details to explain how he escapes his death. The shift helps the reader find the hope for Farquhar because we actually think that his escape was real, but in reality, it is just a way of coping with his death. In the end, this all ties into the theme of there is no glory or romance in war; it is a brutal exercise where human lives have no value.

In Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray, the characterization of Eckels at the beginning of the story foreshadows his failure to heed Travis’s warning. When Eckels enter the time machine, Bradbury describes how nervous he his. “Eckels swayed on the padded seat, his face pale, his jaw stiff. He felt the trembling in his arms and looked down and found his hands tight on the new rifle”(Bradbury 2). This foreshadows Eckels failure because it is evident that he was never ready and confident enough to go hunt the dinosaur. Due to his nervousness and lack of confidence, it leads to him not able to control himself and accidentally walks off the path. It is the character of Eckels that leads to all the danger that happens later on in the story.

On page 4, when they got out of the time machine after Travis explains the directions, Eckels goes outside and plays with his gun. “Eckels, balanced on the narrow Path, aimed his rifle playfully.”(Bradbury 4) This shows that he his not taking this mission seriously even after Travis said specifically not to shoot anything he did not give permission to. After breaking a simple rule, this foreshadows that Eckels will fail to stay on the path later on in the story. In the end, the telling details of the character, Eckels, foreshadows the failure of his mission and leads to the theme that the decisions that one makes clearly can have a significant impact on their life.

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Theme of Irony in “Lamb to The Slaughter” by Roald Dahl. (2022, Aug 12). Retrieved from

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