To what extent is the protagonist conditioned by his or her physical and social environments?


Death by Landscape is a short story written by Margaret Atwood.  This is a story of an old woman Lois giving a flashback of the events that took place in her younger years. Lois is the protagonist in this story. Lois is now an old woman and her children are all grown. Her husband Rob is also dead. All she has is the memory of her friend Lucy who she met in Camp Manitou. They were best of friends but her disappearance has remained in Lois’ memory. In their life at the Camp, different evens too place when they were with Lucy. In her life, she has also had a life attracted to physical and social environments. Throughout the story, Margaret narrates about Lois and her life in Camp Manitou. Evens in Lois’ life as an old woman and as a young girl will be analyzed to determine the extent at which she was conditioned by her physical and social environments.

Lois is influenced greatly by the physical and social environments. In the beginning of the story, Lois is an old woman and she has moved to a condominium apartments. She is attracted to the house and she argues that the building has a sense of security. The apartment was big for the pictures which she valued so much. She says that the arrangement of the pictures gives “the walls a European look” (Atwood, 1). The pictures are composed of environmental images.  There are those with tree trunks, smoothed stone, islands Lake, wooden cliffs and river shore among others.  She was the one who had chosen the pictures. These pictures remind her of her life with Lucy in their childhood. They were food of each other and the memory of Lucy disappearing in the landscape is still fresh in her mind.  The flashback of Lois’childhood life is another example of how she is influenced by physical and social environments.

Margaret narrates the life of Lois when she was fourteen. She went on canoe trip. She passed through the wilderness and Cappie suggests that this was Lois’s first canoe trip. She loves exploring but this was her last canoe trip also. Cappie was in charge of the summer camp (Atwood, 1). It was in Camp Manitou that Lois met Lucy.  Lois and other girls travel in the wilderness. This is the landscape that Lucy disappears.  She vanishes mysteriously as they were walking in the wilderness. She had teased to jump over a water fall. Lois told her that she must be nuts. After a few minutes of walking, thinking that her friend was behind her, she realized that she was nowhere to be found. She disappeared completely. This has left memory in her that makes her have the pictures that represents the trees in the wilderness. Social environments also influence Lois’s life (Atwood, 6).

Social environments can be represented by rituals and parties that existed in camp Manitou.  Lois and Lucy used to perform ritual that Lois does not know what they meant. They used to escape in the night and go to the wilderness and lit fire. There was a time they lit fire and burnt Lucy’s sanitary towel. They were happy to see the sanitary towel burn. They say that they felt satisfaction seeing the white fluff burn and the blood sizzling and it was “as if some wordless ritual had been fulfilled” (Atwood, 3). They used to escape often and they were never caught.  This is the life Lois enjoyed and as an old woman, she is worried about the disappearance of her good friend.

In conclusion, Lois life in the cam Manitou is an indication of how she was attracted to the physical and social environments. Lois has the memory of the camp which is now in her house in form of pictures. The paintings have images that remind her of her life back in her childhood. The picture represents the landscapes, trees, lake which reminds her of life back then. With her friend Lucy, they used to escape and start fire that they once performed a ritual by burning a used sanitary towel. They both enjoyed life in the camp until Lucy vanished mysteriously.

Work cited

Atwood, Margaret. Death by Landscape. 1990