Two Women Find Themselves Alone, At Ends With Themselves
In the short stories “To Room Nineteen” by Doris Lessing and “Death By Landscape” by Margaret Atwood, two women find themselves isolated from the world and the people around them. This paper will compare and contrast each story to show that although both female protagonists are isolated by their circumstances, their individual responses to their circumstances are very different.
In “To Room Nineteen” Susan’s isolation is caused by a number of factors: society and the time she lives in, an unfaithful husband in a broken marriage, and her own inability to deal with her unhappy life. “…She knew he had been unfaithful because of his sullen air, and his glances at her, similar to hers at him: What is that I share with this person that shields all delight from me?” (p. 871) Susan feels trapped by her life and her family, and plagued by her husband’s infidelity and the knowledge that this social norm which she must learn to accept.
In “Death by Landscape” Lois’ isolation is from the fact she is left with no family. Her sons have grown up and left home and she is a widow. This leaves her with no one to support or care for her. “While Rob was alive, while the boys were growing up, she could pretend she didn’t hear it, this empty space in sound. But now there is nothing much left to distract her.” (p. 35) Lois is tormented by her past rather than her present, the traumatic experience of a childhood friend disappearing has remained with her for a years.
In both stories the protagonists share the conflict of the circumstances they live in -oppression from external power. For Lois, she is never able to quite move on from her friend’s disappearance. “She would never go up North, to Rob’s family cottage or to any place with wild lakes and wild trees and the calls of loons.” (p.35) One of the major factors of her conflict is the result of her...