Examples of Foreshadowing in "Lamb to The Slaughter"

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About this sample


Words: 682 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 682|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Symbolic Lamb
  2. The Broken Clock
  3. The Unfinished Drink
  4. Conclusion

Roald Dahl's short story "Lamb to the Slaughter" is known for its clever use of foreshadowing throughout the narrative. Foreshadowing is a literary technique that hints at future events or outcomes, creating suspense and anticipation for the reader. In this essay, we will explore several examples of foreshadowing in "Lamb to the Slaughter" and analyze their implications. Through these examples, Dahl effectively engages the reader, builds tension, and adds depth to the story. By examining the foreshadowing techniques used by the author, we can gain a deeper understanding of the story's themes and the characters' motivations.

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The Symbolic Lamb

One of the most prominent examples of foreshadowing in "Lamb to the Slaughter" is the symbolic significance of the lamb. From the very beginning of the story, the reader is introduced to the idea of innocence and vulnerability through the image of the lamb. Mary Maloney, the protagonist, is described as having "eyes that were soft and warm with the innocent love of a young lamb" (Dahl). This comparison foreshadows both Mary's initial innocence and her eventual transformation into a predator.

As the story progresses, the reader becomes aware of the impending tragedy, and the lamb takes on a new meaning. When Mary decides to use the frozen leg of lamb as a murder weapon, the symbolism becomes clear. The lamb, once a symbol of innocence, now represents the destruction of Mary's previously idyllic life. This use of foreshadowing adds depth to the story, as it hints at the unexpected turns the narrative will take and the moral ambiguity of the characters involved.

The Broken Clock

Another example of foreshadowing in "Lamb to the Slaughter" is the broken clock. At the beginning of the story, Mary notices that the clock on the mantelpiece is ticking loudly, which irritates her. She asks her husband, Patrick, if he could have it fixed, but he dismisses her request, saying, "I'll have a look at it when I come in. I'll see to it" (Dahl). This seemingly insignificant detail becomes significant later in the story.

After Mary commits the murder, she puts the leg of lamb in the oven and then goes to the grocery store to create an alibi. When she returns home, she realizes that the clock has stopped ticking. This detail serves as a powerful foreshadowing device, signaling that Mary's carefully constructed plan is about to unravel. The broken clock represents the breaking of the normalcy and routine in Mary's life, as well as the impending discovery of her crime.

The Unfinished Drink

One more example of foreshadowing in "Lamb to the Slaughter" can be found in the unfinished drink that Mary offers to her husband. When Patrick arrives home, Mary notices that he seems distant and uncommunicative. In an attempt to cheer him up, she pours him a drink and encourages him to drink it. However, Patrick only takes a few sips before setting the glass down and announcing that he has something important to tell her.

This seemingly insignificant detail gains significance later in the story, as we learn that Patrick's announcement is his intention to leave Mary. The unfinished drink foreshadows the abrupt end of their marriage and hints at the drastic actions Mary will take in response. It also adds to the tension and sense of unease throughout the narrative, as the reader becomes increasingly aware of the impending tragedy.


In conclusion, Roald Dahl effectively utilizes foreshadowing in "Lamb to the Slaughter" to engage the reader and enhance the narrative. Through the use of symbolism, such as the lamb and the broken clock, as well as the inclusion of seemingly insignificant details like the unfinished drink, Dahl creates a sense of anticipation and builds tension throughout the story. By examining these examples of foreshadowing, we can gain a deeper understanding of the themes and motivations present in the narrative. "Lamb to the Slaughter" serves as a prime example of how foreshadowing can enrich a story, adding depth and complexity to the characters and their actions.

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Overall, Dahl's masterful use of foreshadowing in "Lamb to the Slaughter" demonstrates the power of this literary technique to captivate readers and enhance the storytelling experience.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Examples of Foreshadowing in “Lamb to the Slaughter”. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from
“Examples of Foreshadowing in “Lamb to the Slaughter”.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
Examples of Foreshadowing in “Lamb to the Slaughter”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Jul. 2024].
Examples of Foreshadowing in “Lamb to the Slaughter” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 13 [cited 2024 Jul 24]. Available from:
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