Professor Shirley Brownlee
November 13, 2014
Margaret Atwood: “Death By Landscape”
Losing someone or something you love or care deeply about is very painful. You may experience all kinds of difficult emotions and it may feel like the pain and sadness you're experiencing will never let up. These are normal reactions to a significant loss. But while there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. The character Lois in the story “Death by Landscape”, written by Margaret Atwood, exhibits grief and how it has an effect on life.
As people often do, Lois’s life is affected by an event in her past that disturbs her. During her childhood years, Lois was traumatized when her best friend Lucy went missing and was blamed for it. Even though it is evident that Lois did not kill Lucy, a sense of guilt from Lucy’s mysterious death disturbs her psyche; she felt as if she could have stopped it from happening. Lois “was living not one life but two: her own, and another, shadowy life that hovered around her and would not let itself be realized”. The guilt tears her apart on the inside and sends her into a depression, even neglecting her family from her thoughts, seeming to isolate herself form everyone. Lois had a very difficult time dealing with this. In Janis DiCiacco’s book “The Colors
of Grief : Understanding a Child's Journey Through Loss From Birth to Adulthood” she wrote “Grief is a long and difficult journey during the years a child is growing up. The goal of this journey—to heal the deep grief”. This is evidence that shows how difficult it is for a child to deal with grief.
When people pass they create memorials, or something to remember the person by. Lois keeps landscape paintings in her house, but not for love of the art, but because they remind her of the landscape her friend went missing. Atwood writes, “She looks at the paintings, she looks into them. Every one of them is a picture of Lucy. You can’t see her exactly, but she’s there”. The paintings shows as a way for her dealing with her thoughts, the paintings do not bring her happiness. Atwood writes, “She does not find them peaceful in the least. Looking at them fills her with a wordless unease”. Lois feels that she should keep the memory up of her friend because she feels guilty. Although this is painful it is also helpful to her getting over her grief. This is
evident in “Dying, Death, and Grief : Working with Adult Bereavement” by Mallon, Brenda. When to referring to Sigmund Freud’s work in her book, she wrote “He believed the bereaved person has to work through his grief by reviewing thoughts and memories of the deceased. By this process, painful as it is, the bereaved can achieve detachment from the loved one and the bereaved’s bonds with the deceased become looser”. This supports that Lois’s paintings were actually helping her deal with her grief.
Throughout the story, we can clearly see how nature is presented as a negative role in Lois’ life. Her grief was shown throughout the story, with her assumption that there was something more to her paintings. Atwood gave an abstract idea of why Lois chose these
paintings, with describing each scene of the wilderness. Atwood wrote “There are no backgrounds 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 tree and branch and rock. No matter how far back in you go, there…