To answer this question, it’s worth first considering whether isolated is actually the most appropriate word to describe Lois in Margaret Atwood 's short story "Death By Landscape." To some extent the opposite could be argued of the adult Lois: she is haunted, constantly accompanied by the presence of her...
To answer this question, it’s worth first considering whether isolated is actually the most appropriate word to describe Lois in Margaret Atwood's short story "Death By Landscape." To some extent the opposite could be argued of the adult Lois: she is haunted, constantly accompanied by the presence of her dead friend, Lucy. She doesn’t get out as much as her sons would like, we learn, and her husband died, but she mentions friends, and doesn’t necessarily seem completely lonely or isolated, rather her life is shaped by the company of her memories.
Lois lives surrounded by paintings and we learn she "is glad she's been able to find an apartment big enough for her pictures. They are more crowded together than they were in the house." Each of these paintings, to Lois, holds her dead friend Lucy:
Everyone has to be somewhere, and this is where Lucy is. She is in Lois's apartment, in the holes that open inward on the wall, not like windows but like doors.
Lucy, her friend that died while they were at summer camp, stays with her throughout her life, a constant presence. Lois remembers her own life and how she
was tired a lot, as if she was living not one life but two: her own, and another, shadowy life that hovered around her and would not let itself be realized.
It's worth, then, thinking about the concepts of isolation and hauntings and deciding whether there is a better way to think of Lois than "isolated." Words like "separate" or "apart" might work slightly better.
It’s certainly obvious that her interactions with life, and indeed the whole path of her life, was impacted enormously by the death of her friend and its circumstances and aftermath. She didn’t naturally fit into the summer camps and felt somewhat separate from the activities and interactions at first but we learn that she grew to enjoy it despite feeling different to the others. Even as an adult "Lois thinks she can recognize women who went to these camps and were good at it."
The main reason for suggesting that she is not fully part of the world is because of the separation or division caused by the suspicions that she was responsible for Lucy's death:
She felt the other girls in the cabin watching her with speculation in their eyes. Could she have done it! She must have done it. For the rest of her life, she has caught people watching her in this way. Maybe they weren't thinking this. Maybe they were merely sorry for her. But she felt she had been tried and sentenced; and this is what has stayed with her: the knowledge that she has been singled out, condemned for something that was not her fault.
Likewise, a main theme is her reluctance to be part of the wilderness, but while she chooses to live in a safe apartment where the wild is ostensibly outside, the outdoors creeps in in various ways and is a major part of her because of Lucy and the events of her death. She may try to isolate herself to some extent, for example by not going out much or not visiting her late husband's family, but by the end it is clear that it's impossible for her to be totally separate and alone. Perhaps it would be best to think about how the death of her friend resulted in her feeling somehow both present and absent throughout her whole life, accompanied by ghosts and shadows.