The language of “Dead as They Come” by Ian McEwan reveals a personal tone and a casual English which is easy to follow. The choice of words is connected to fashion (the clothes the mannequin wears are depicted in detail), art (several paintings are mentioned), and erotic love.

Imagery is mostly related to the dummy which is the object of the narrator’s affection but also to setting and action. Here is an example from the beginning of the text which creates imagery related to the mannequin:

The legs were well apart, the right foot boldly advanced, the left trailing with studied casualness. She held her right hand before her, almost touching the window, the fingers thrusting up like a beautiful flower. The left hand she held a little behind her and seemed to push down playful lapdogs. Head well back, a faint smile, eyes half-closed with boredom or pleasure. 

And here is another example in which a mental image of the setting is conveyed through descriptive words:

Next I took her into the bath room and showed her the sunken marble bath and how to operate the taps that made the water spew from the mouths of alabaster lions. I wondered if she thought that a little vulgar. She said nothing. I ushered her into the dining room . . . once again paintings… 

The story is mostly rendered in discursive mode, using indirect speech, but dialogue is also employed occasionally. Apart from these general features, a number of language and literary devices which we discuss below further enhance the text.


A series of similes create unique associations and comparisons connected to the action or the characters, and they help convey the narrator’s perspective:

“the fingers thrusting up like a beautiful flower” 

“my decisions countered each other like parallel mirrors” 

“They clustered...

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