Teenage Suicide in Death by Landscape
Margaret Atwood is the Canadian author of "Death by Landscape" which is a short story pulled from her novel, Wilderness Tips. This story highlights a huge problem in today's society, teenage suicide. Wilderness Tips was published in 1991, which is during the time of suicide "clusters" in the teenage population. These so called clusters began in the late 80's. Some experts indicate that suicide has always been a problem but was never seriously acknowledged until the late 1980's. Ms. Atwood incorporated this real life epidemic in her short story. Margaret Atwood is known for her effort to discuss real life matters in her writings. She believes that expressing oneself is not the goal to writing. The writer should strive to express the story and keep the reader interested (Atwood 1425). She reaches her goal in "Death by Landscape."
Teenage suicide seems to be the underlying tone in this short story. Several signs of a distressed teen are illustrated through the character of Lucy. Usually a teen that commits suicide is one who is admired. The first time Lois meets Lucy, she thought of her as an exception. Lucy says the only reason she is at the same camp as Lois is because her mother went there. Lois immediately feels like Lucy is above this camp but since Lucy is good-natured she will make it work. She thinks about the fact that Lucy had a full time maid while her own family only had someone twice a week. Lucy adores her father and tells Lois about the neat patch over his eye. Lois tries to offer something up about her family that may interest Lucy. She tells Lucy that her father plays golf. Lucy just answers by stating that both her father and mother play golf. These parents may seem great to a person like Lois but Lucy's parents probably showed her very little attention. One major sign of a suicidal teen is a change in habits (Suicide 1). Each summer that Lucy returns to camp she has a new hobby. Lois thinks of these changes exciting but in reality, Lucy cannot find anything to make her happy.
Another indicator of suicide is more or less sleeping (Schleiter 42). Lois comments on the fact that Lucy is harder to wake up in the mornings. She is also quieter and more pensive. Another indicator is a high stress level; teens who commit suicide are often overwhelmed by stress from the beginning. A "trigger" event then becomes the final catalyst (Frankel 34). In Lucy's case this trigger event could very well be the divorce of her parents. Lucy says she does not like her new stepfather and her father has also remarried. She mentions running away from home. Another possible trigger is the move away from home. Research shows that depression seems to mark teens who have recently moved away. They are more or less uprooted from the place where they have grown up and started their own lives.
There are myths...