In Margaret Atwood's "Death by Landscape," why and how is Lois isolated from the world and the people around her?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Death by Landscape," Lois is isolated from the world and the people around her because her husband, Rob, is dead, and her two boys are grown up. She lives in an antiseptic condominium with her art collection. Her apartment complex is devoid of nature; the only element of nature in the complex are the potted plants in the solarium. Lois is often tired and doesn't go out very often.

Lois is isolated from the world because of an incident that happened when she was young and attended a camp with her friend Lucy. One summer, they set off on a canoe trip, and, climbing down from a sheer cliff, Lucy went off to relieve herself. Lucy had expressed discontentment about her parents' marriages and their attempt to break up her relationship with her boyfriend, a gardener's assistant. Suddenly, Lois hears a scream, and Lucy is never found again. Lois is haunted by this incident for the rest of her life. Years later, as a widow, she thinks about the "shadowy life that hovered around her and would not let itself be realized, the life of what would have happened if Lucy had not stepped sideways and disappeared from time." Lucy's disappearance forever haunts Lois, and, feeling guilty and confused over her friend's disappearance, Lois lives a kind of shadowy existence in which she doesn't connect to anything or anyone. 


ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Death by Landscape Margaret Atwood's character development of Lois follows a pattern found in many of her stories, the wilderness vs human existence. Lois is isolated by choice. Right at the beginning we learn that her children are grown and her husband has died.  The story tells us about Lois and her going to a camp as a child. She didn't really want to go but eventually she makes friends with Lucy.  One day when Lois and Lucy separate from the group Lucy disappears in the woods never to be found again. 

The losses in her life seem to have created a self impose isolation.  Lois chooses to move into a condominium so she will not have to take care of the yard, or deal with nature in any way.  She is frightened by the concept of the wilderness and the fact that they never found her friend.  She is afraid of the world.  She is even made to feel uneasy by her own paintings. 

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