slough of pain

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Senior Member
Straightening up brought a fresh slough of pain, and when the act was accomplished he could do no more than sit and pant for awhile, his head tilted as far as the uncompromising back of the wheelchair would allow, the bobby-pin lying on the board across the chair’s arms. For awhile he was quite sure he was going to puke, but that passed.
Source: Misery by Stephen King
Context: A deranged fan saves a writer from a near-fatal car crash, and subjects him to an escalating reign of terror. She kept him in a guest back room without medical treatment. In this scene, he is desperate to get to her pain killers hiding place after she left him to town.

Previously, medical and bioethical journals have published a few articles or notes about this film (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)), acclaiming it as a work of art owing to its candid description of human nature -how we fall into the slough of pain and suffering, but also how we re-emerge when we receive the smallest bit of attention and love2; and confirming that it is indeed a classic in many programs aimed at the medical humanities across the world.
source: jmm

I saw a girl who had hardly even lived suffering through an unfathomable slough of pain and distress, and all I could ask myself is what child deserves this?
source: bonfire

slough of pain is pretentious phrase for extreme pain, right?

I read the thread about slough of despond, meaning ‘extreme depression’. I wonder whether one could generalise this use to other extreme conditions.

Gloss (WRF)
slough: a condition of despair or humiliation.
slew: a large number or quantity:A whole slew of people showed up.

Thank you.
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    King's use in your first quote is very different from the other two. For all I can see, King could have made up his meaning, which appears to be something something sudden and sharp, that I don't recall having come across elsewhere. OED offers no assistance.

    The other two use "slough" to mean quagmire (its literal meaning). It is used metaphorically, but uses terms you might associate with a quagmire such as "fall into", "re-emerge" and "unfathomable".


    Senior Member
    English English
    The basic meaning of slough is 'marsh' so you could really only generalize it if it would make sense to replace it with marsh. E.g.
    He found himself trapped in a slough of anguish.:tick:
    He found himself trapped in a marsh of anguish.:tick:

    Straightening up brought a fresh slough of pain.:thumbsdown:/:cross:
    Straightening up brought a fresh marsh of pain.:thumbsdown:/:cross:

    Mr King should've said slew or, better, burst/attack/onslaught etc.

    cross-posted ~ again
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