How does Atwood use imagery to convey her thoughts in "Death by Landscape"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In a story that is so much about landscape paintings and the images of nature that they contain, you might like to examine the way such paintings are described. Consider this description, that comes at the end of this excellent story. The paintings that the narrator looks at are not traditional landscape paintings "in the old, tidy European sense." By contrast, they are characterised by:

...a tangle, a receding maze, in which you can become lost almost as soon as you step off the path. There are no bckgrounds in any of these paintings, no vistas; only a great deal of foreground that goes back and back, endlessly, involving you in its twists and turns of trees and branch and rock. No matter how far back in you go, there will be more.

The description of these paintings focuses on the messy, labyrinthine paths of the wildnerness in which it is easy to lose yourself and which threaten to overwhelm you. It is this aspect of the wilderness that, in the final lines of the story, Lois is forced to admit is a part of her, as she realises that she has been living two lives after the death of her friend. The description thus helps to describe the kind of threatening and confusing life that Lois has been living and how she has internalised the danger of the wilderness into her own life.

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