Femininity In Margaret Atwood's Death By Landscape

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The passage from girl to woman often means submitting to a patriarchal world. In Margaret Atwood’s “Death by Landscape”, the protagonist Lois undergoes a shift that results in her losing her sense of femininity. The path to finding her femininity once again starts when she loses Lucy, has to learn how to cope with the loss of her femininity, and it ends when she is able to ‘find’ Lucy again.

Lucy means a lot to Lois, not only as a friend, but also as a symbol of femininity. By her juxtaposition to the forest, Lucy becomes this rebellious opposition to the masculine forces. As Rashke claims, the woods are a representation “for transformation, albeit a masculine one” (Rashke 73). However in Atwood’s story, she sends Lucy and Lois into the woods for their transition. This shows the readers how women are expected to conform to the traditions of the men, and that in order to be perceived as moving forward in life, women have to accomplish a masculine feat. As well, losing Lucy in the transformation symbolizes the loss of femininity in a woman’s transition into adulthood. Lois, then, has to continue living in this patriarchal world without knowing where her femininity has gone.
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In the short story, Lois has to mourn nothing as Lucy “is nowhere definite” (Atwood 117). Just like her femininity, Lois has no clue where Lucy has gone. That daunting state of the unknown, of something being able to disappear into nothing reflects how hopeless it is for Lois to be a woman in a world that takes away her femininity. Consequently, this defeminization allows the opposing forces of masculinity to take over: represented in the story when she marries a man and has two sons. Now that she has passed on from the stereotypical female roles of mother and wife, it allows Lois to go searching for her lost
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