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Death by Landscape

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“Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood’s is a story about a widowed mother, Lois who spends her time admiring her work of art which she has displayed on the walls of her newly acquired waterfront apartment. Although she keeps admiring the paintings, they do not fill her heart with peace. The author has made use of stylistic devices to bring out the theme of violence in the story. From the beginning, the story shows that Lois did not have peace Margaret A, 269. Through a flashback, we learn that Lois did not have peace in the apartment that she lived in before she moved to the waterfront apartment. In her former apartment, she would always worry about the ivy pushing into the brickwork; squirrels that used to gnaw their way into the house and eat the insulation off the wiring and strange noises that could be heard (Margaret A. 269). In addition, Lois never had peace through admiring her paintings because they had pictures of the landscape which would always make her uncomfortable. She had always felt as if somebody was looking back from the pictures and this used to make her uneasy (Margaret A. 270).

Lois’s lack of peace in her heart shows violence in the story. She is greatly affected by the disappearance of her friend Lucy during their camping at the CampManitou. In this camp, there is a lot of violence that is depicted. Lois attended the camp at her age of nine to thirteen years. The setting of the camping site represents a wilderness that has been domesticated. The loud shouting and banging of spoons that was accepted in the camping site is an image that represents violence. Thus we can say that the author has used the stylistic device of imagery to represent violence in the story. According to Margaret A. (274), Lois hated the raucous singsongs which they were expected to yell to mean that they were enjoying their camping. They were also expected to write several letters to their parents to tell them that they enjoyed life in the camp. Ironically, Lois could only pretend to enjoy being in the camp site because she could not complain because it cost a lot of money to be there.

There is also a lack of representation of violence in the story. The author portrays the relationship of Lucy and Lois as being peaceful meaning that they did not have violence between themselves. Nevertheless, their relationship also shows violence in the story. When Lucy and Lois are in the canoe, they splash each other with their paddles and this shows violence in the story, (Margaret A 278).

 Another representation of violence in the story is when Lucy informs her friend Lois that her parents are threatening her with a boarding school because of her relationship with an assistant gardener, (Margaret A 276). Due to her parents divorce, Lucy lacks peace of mind and this shows violence in the story. The divorce has affected her and she is pensive and hard to wake in the mornings while in the camp, (Margaret A 276). She claims that she does not like her step father and neither is she willing to stay with her real father. Lucy is also affected by the thoughts that her mother might be having an affair with a doctor and she hates her private school. The lack of peace that we see in Lucy’s life depicts violence in the story. During their last year in the camp, Lucy becomes disillusioned because of her parents divorce.  In addition, though Lois does not have so many sad things about her life to tell Lucy, she says that there is nothing much to say about happiness. This lack of happiness in the life of Lois also represents violence in the story, (Margaret A 276).

The author also represents violence in the story through the climax of the story. The climax of the story is when Lois and Lucy participate in a one week excursion in the wilderness. During this excursion, the two girls separate with the other members and Lucy gets lost in the sheer cliff, (Margaret A 280). Lucy had gone to urinate but she never came back. Lois can only hear shouts which she did not know what they meant. The disappearance of Lucy creates a lot of troubles in the life of Lois. Since then, Lois does not have peace and this shows violence in the story. When they go back to the camp, the Cappie blames Lois for the disappearance of Lucy, (Margaret A 280). The Cappie accuses Lois of pushing Lucy over the cliff. This makes Lois lack peace of mind and hence showing that there was violence in her heart. More so, the other girls in the camp also look at Lois with a lot of suspicion and this affected her more. She was singled out and condemned for the loss of her friend Lucy but she knew well that she had not done anything’ (Margaret A 283). Further more, the disappearance of Lucy led to the death of the campManitou and Lois was blamed for it too because Lucy disappeared when they were together.

The disappearance of Lucy makes Lois haunted for the rest of her life. This haunting makes her lack peace and it can be associated with violence. The paintings in the walls of her house represent the wilderness which she associates with the disappearance of Lucy and this is why she feels uneasy every time she looks at them. Lois’s lack of peace in her house represents violence in the story.

  “The One about Coyote Going West”

In the story “The One about Coyote Going West”, Thomas Kings tells of a story about the indigenous creation and how native people got affected by the white people. The author uses the narrator Coyote to tell his story in which while going to the West, Coyote comes to discover Indians. The story uses the image of the ducks to represent the world which gets affected when people try to temper with it.

The author has represented violence in the story through the image of the cycles of life that the “Coyote going to the west” passes through (Thomas K, 304). In several instances, the coyote going to the west attempts to fix and make the world straight but in the event creates chaos and lack of order. This represents violence in the story. The author represents violence in the story by his presentation of the world as a completely unstable place for people to live in and thus the world has to be fixed time and again. In telling the story, the grandmother says that the Coyote going to the west was going to fix the world (Thomas K, 303). This creates the picture of violence in the world where things are not stable and the world too.

In addition, the characters in the story keep on changing their gender and identity and this further reflects the instability of the world hence violence. The author uses repetition of words to show lack of peace in the story (Thomas K, 303). The image of Coyote wagging her tailing in the story also represents violence in the story. When the narrator says that Coyote put her nose in her tea, it means that Coyote got involved in the narrators affairs and the narrator was not happy about it. Coyote is thus ordered to remove her nose from the narrator’s tea and this shows that there is violence between the two.

The other instance of violence is when the narrator wants to tell a story about the white men, (Thomas K, 304). Coyote informs the narrator that he will be biting her toes and thus this represents violence in the story. The image of the mistake people make while trying to make the world better represents the violence we have in the world. The narrator has used the image of a mistake to depict violence in the story. While Coyote was trying to go west, there was nothing in the world except her (Thomas K, 304). According to the narrator, Coyote was supposed to make everything but the first thing she made was a mistake. When Coyote makes the mistake, the mistake grabs her nose and pulls off the mouth and she cannot sing a song to make the hole for her mistake bigger. The more Coyote tries to make the world, she ends up creating more mistakes for herself and this shows violence in the story. The mistake that Coyote makes first jumps up and down over her till she is flat. This shows that the mistakes we make when we are trying to make things good for us make us suffer and lack peace in life and we can therefore associate violence with mistakes. More so, the author tells us that we are the major source of the violent actions that we fall in because violence is caused by the mistakes we make in life. The author also depicts mistakes as something that destroys us completely. When Coyote makes a mistake, she cannot sing to bring harmony into her because the mouth, nose and ears are completely destroyed and she cannot produce any noise through them (Thomas K, 306). When the mouth, ears and nose cannot sing, Coyote decides to use her butt hole to sing but by doing this, she continues to mess up with the world because the smell the butt hole produces is stinky. This shows that violence continues to spoil the world whenever it is started.

The author shows us that when we try to correct the mistakes we have made, we create more problems hence chaos. When Coyote uses the butt hole to sing a song of peace, she creates a problem because the ducks come out to know who is causing the bad smell,(Thomas K 307). The author uses the image of ducks to represent the Indians who were not happy with the foul smell that Coyote was making because of using the butt hole to sing a healing song. To represent violence in the story, the author also uses the image of a river that emerges but Coyote only wishes that the river had waterfalls and rocks in it. In response, Coyote puts waterfalls and rocks in the river thus making it bad,(Thomas K 307). This shows that as we try to make things better, we always end up causing problems for ourselves thus lack of peace. More so, the appearance of a good mountain makes Coyote wish that it had a peak and a cliff and she changed the good mountain to make a bad one. This further shows violence in the story because of Coyote’s disordering of the things that were good.

When Coyote spoils the river and the mountain, she goes looking for the one spoiling the world but we understand that she is the one who is doing it herself. The image of a mistake reading a book is used by the author to show how Coyote was not in good terms with the Indians. In the process of creating the Indians, Coyote fails to close her eyes and grabs the white duck by the neck. This represents violence in the story, (Thomas K 310). When the eggs crack and young ducks come out, the ducks turn to be the Indians that Coyote had been looking for. There is violence that arises between Coyote and the ducks because the ducks blame Coyote for destroying the dance that made them lose their good feathers, (Thomas K 312).

The story “The One about Coyote Going West” shows violence because through Coyote’s attempt to fix the world, we learn that no one in the world is safe. The more we try to make this world better for us, the more we create problems unknowingly. In going to the west, Coyote created so many problems that caused lack of peace in the world because of disordering the good world. Lack of order in the world thus shows lack of peace hence violence.

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