To what extent is the protagonist of the story “Death by landscape” responsible for the conflict or predicament she faces?
In Margaret Atwood’s short story “Death by landscape” Lois is the protagonist. The protagonist’s lifelong conflict in dealing with a childhood accident is partially self-inflicted, but the severity of the tragic incident and other circumstances must be analyzed to determine her responsibility for her current state. This essay will analyze the various influences causing Lois’ guilt and obsession over the accidental death of her childhood friend Lucy. These influences include how Lucy disappeared without a trace, the camp staff’s accusations towards Lois, her relationship with Lucy, and her age and vulnerability at the time of accident. Finally, her actions and decisions as an adult will be analyzed as they relate to her childhood experience.
Lucy disappears in a strange way and is the only reason of Lois’ unhappiness and disappointment. The ...view middle of the document...
” (35). She was looking for a confession from a thirteen year old, scared girl. She feels that she is the only one to bear the responsibility, “But she felt she had been tried and sentenced, and this is what has stayed with her” (35).
Lois’ relationship with Lucy plays a key role in her present feelings. She considered Lucy a good friend and admired her self-assured attitude and privileged lifestyle, and at the same time she was aware of her deeper discontent with life back home (“it would be nice not to go back”) (31). Lois feels she should have done more for her friend, although she’s not sure what: possibly seen the signs of her unhappiness or stayed closer to her on the cliff. Lucy’s last words were “wait for me” (32), the only time she reaches out to her friend in a needy way, contributing to Lois’ unending waiting.
Lois struggled to accept the loss of her friend. It took her several decades to overcome the fear and feelings of guilt, but she prefers to suppress her feelings. Her husband and kids provides her with a distraction, and in their absence she changes her atmosphere to delete all reminders of camp Manitou, except some pictures of landscapes in which Lucy disappeared. She chooses an environment where she surrounds herself with landscape artwork to search for her friend and also she feels protected in it. And where she does not “have to worry about the lawn, or about the ivy pushing its muscular little suckers into the brickwork” (24).
There are so many factors that have a lot of impact on one’s life, especially when they have occurred in adolescence. However the protagonist in the story “death by landscape” carries the majority of responsibility for her present state since she did little help to herself. She could get help or advice to deal with the guilt of loss and mystery of disappearance, but instead she was living two lives since many years. The factors given above shows that Lois is responsible for her current state. But she can get sympathy for her severe childhood trauma if we consider ourselves in her situation.
Atwood, Margaret. “Death by landscape.” The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. 7th ed. Ed. Richard Bausch and R.V. Cassill (New York: w.w. Norton Company, Inc. 2006) 24-36.