Death by Landscape

by Margaret Atwood

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Why might Lois, in "Death by Landscape," live in a tame development surrounded by landscape pictures?

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In "Death by Landscape," Lois lives in two worlds. The one world is her adult life as wife, now widow, and mother. In this life, she chooses a comfortable "tame" dwelling place. Her second life is the haunting of a terrible event from her girlhood that occurred in the wilderness at summer camp.

One year, her best friend Lucy and she went on a week long wilderness excursion. After climbing to the top of a hill, the girls are momentarily separated and Lois hears a scream. Lucy is not to be found. The campers and supervisors are forced to return without finding Lucy. Later, even officials cannot find Lucy or her body.

Lois has refused all these years to believe that Lucy really died. This is why she is attracted to and surrounds herself with paintings of landscapes: she cannot bring herself to let go of her friend and the last time she saw her.

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Why might Lois have elected to live in the setting she has chosen: an apartment in a very "tame" development, surrounded by the landscape pictures she has selected?

Let us remember the way in which after the disappearance of Lucy, Lois deliberately avoids any form of wilderness that could remind her of what happened to Lucy. Even though her husband has a house in the north, she never goes up there and prefers to stay in the tame south of Canada. She seems almost relieved to move into an apartment where she only has to worry about potted plants. Nature is domesticated and tamed.

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Why might Lois have elected to live in the setting she has chosen: an apartment in a very "tame" development, surrounded by the landscape pictures she has selected?

Keep in mind that the landscapes are not pretty pictures with which Lois surrounds herself. They, in fact, fill her with uneasiness. Is it possible that she surrounds herself with them as a reminder of the tragic events that took place at summer camp or that they are the subconscious manifestations of survivors guilt? You might want to check out the enotes link:

http://www.enotes.com/jax/index.php/enotes/gsearch?m=co&q=death+by+landscape

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