“Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood Essay Sample
“Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood is a short story about a trauma that had a tremendous effect on the life of a young girl named Lois. The story begins with Lois living alone in an apartment. She is a widow with two grown children. Lois collects paintings of landscapes and she likes her apartment because they all fit on the walls. I do not believe that Lois likes the paintings, but she seems to need them.
I like the imagery in the story very much. Atwood descriptions are colorful and truly bring the story to life. I can see Cappie, in her feathers and face-paint and blanket. I can see Lois and Lucy smoking cigarettes and sneaking behind the outhouse to light fires. When the girls leave camp for the canoe trip, the foreshadowing is wonderful. “The lake goes down, deeper and colder than it was a minute before.” Sights, sounds, smell, Atwood describes them all. That is what I liked best about the story.
I did not like the part of the story where Cappie accuses Lois of being angry with Lucy and pushing her off the cliff. I understand why she did so and why Atwood included it in the story, but it made me angry. That sentence is what caused Lois to feel guilty her whole life. Even though she was not responsible, Lois spent the rest of her life looking for Lucy.
It was interesting to me that Lois felt as though she was living two lives for most of hers – “another, shadowy life that hovered around her and would not let itself be realized”. Every painting that she collected in some way reminded her of Camp Manitou and the forest where Lucy disappeared. Even though she spent her life metaphorically looking for Lucy, she never went back to the north again. When she had her family near she could ignore these feelings, but now that she is a widow and her children have grown up, she is alone and seems to spend most of her time looking at the paintings trying to keep Lucy alive. I wonder if Lois would have felt so guilty and looked so long and hard for Lucy if Cappie had not accused her. I wonder if Lois would have somehow come to terms with what happened instead of spending her life searching and feeling guilty. I think this story shows how important it is to think before we speak, particularly to children. We are sometimes unaware of just how much our words can wound others.