Diction and storytelling in Death by Landscape by Margaret Atwood

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9 October 2014

Diction and storytelling in “Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood

Rather than an exaggerated hyperbole,  “scarred for life” is a very accurate description of Lois from the short story “Death by Landscape’s” state of mind. Margaret Atwood depicts a character haunted by her childhood and solidifies that past experiences do a great deal in shaping the future of children into adulthood. Through diction by an older and younger Lois: symbolism, setting and characterization are distinguished.

Firstly, strong symbolism is expressed through the landscape paintings that Lois collects while at the same time she avoids the wilderness altogether. The readers are left wondering why Lois would collect these painting if she “does not find them peaceful in the least” but instead they “fill her with a world of unease” (2). It is revealed at the end of the short story that these paintings are representative of the tie Lois still has been unable to sever with her deceased best friend from childhood. A friend who in Lois’ mind completely vanished off the face of the earth; her body was never recovered. A young Lois recalled, “Lucy did not care about things she did not know, whereas Lois did”, from this it can assumed that Lois is a character of strong need for closure and she never got it. In her mind there was no way Lucy could just disappear like this, she had to be somewhere. With this mindset taken into her adulthood an older Lois had rebirthed Lucy through these landscape paintings symbolic of her death. “A dead person is a body, a dead body occupies space it exists somewhere”(9), with this mindset Lois preserved Lucy’s existence through these landscape paintings. In this case symbolism is key in understanding Lois’ fear of the wild.

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Secondly, setting and imagery play a key role in shaping Lois’ views of the wilderness in adulthood and childhood. As a child it’s made clear that Lois has hostility towards the camp and its atmosphere but then eventually she gets used to it. But Lois in adulthood is seen to have a traumatic fear of anything remotely to do with the wilderness.  At first glance it just seems as though she just doesn’t care for gardening by her “[relief] not to have to worry about the lawn, or about the ivy pushing its muscular little suckers into the brickwork” (4). ...

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