Mysteries in Nature


The second to last story we read, “Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood, and the final story we listened to by Dave Eggers had similar settings and themes. I also thought it was interesting to compare the reading and listening to see which story seemed the most mysterious or creepy purely based on the context it was understood in.

The similarities are as follows:

1. Both stories had nature and woodsy themes. “Death by Landscape” was set in a camp and the mysterious event took place on a cliff while they were on a canoe trip. You can really get a sense of the isolation and nature aspect while they are discussing the canoe trip. “It took them the same two days to go back that is had taken coming in” (pg. 343) suggests that they are far from any civilization and had to take two days just to get back and get the police. This is similar to Dave Eggers’ story when he discusses Francis’ situation. Francis was in a remote part of a park near a deep lake. She was completely alone when she rowed out to the center of the lake. Both stories have outdoor settings in fairly isolated areas.

2. The girls in the stories both mysteriously disappear. In “Death by Landscape”, Lucy screams and disappears after she was left alone to go to the bathroom. This is a mystery because we do not know if she fell (or jumped) off the cliff, she was kidnapped, or she disappeared by some supernatural force. The characters in the story never find out because neither they nor the police search team ever found evidence. In comparison, there is one piece of evidence in Dave Eggers’ story. “…on it were four words… They said, ‘I did knock first’” (pg. 2) Although this is a clue, it does not tell you what happened to Francis when she was out on the lake. It is quite the mystery because her disappearance seems to be the cause of something supernatural or something we would not be able to understand easily.

Through these similarities, both stories told a tale of a disappearance out in the wilderness. Based on the reading or listening contexts, I think that creepiest story was the one that was listened to. Dave Eggers’ voice portrayed his words in an ideal, mysterious way. The sound effects and pauses increased my anticipation and caused goose bumps to form when the knocking first occurred. It is quite the mystery and truly intrigues me in to wanting to know who was knocking and what happened to Francis.

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One comment

  1. I think another interesting similarity between the stories is that both of the girls who disappeared initiated their own demises. Lucy says that “It would be quite a dive off here” on page 342 when she refers to the cliff. When Lois says that she would be crazy to do such a thing, Lucy says that the water below is pretty deep. This could be taken as simple teasing, but with a history of family troubles, Lucy may have wanted to jump. Perhaps deep down, she wanted to fall off, to disappear from the world. In the same way, Francis thought about her own demise. She went out on the lake alone, looking for something. The note she left behind that says “I did knock first” tells us that she had a hand in her own disappearance just like Lucy.

    It seems that they are both cautionary tales of trying to break routine. Lucy never seemed to be surprised until she disappeared. She had a “cry of surprise, cut off too soon.” It is ironic that the only Lucy experiences something surprising to her, she disappears. Earlier, it seems that no matter what Lois tells or shows her about the camp, Lucy is apathetic or has experienced something similar before. Perhaps this one time next to the cliff, she wanted to feel what it was like to get close to the edge and slipped off. Francis is known to be someone who liked to “break new ground and be alone”. She has a sense of adventure and an independent streak. However, when she goes out on the lake alone and knocks first, she disappears. This too is ironic because when Francis is trying to be alone, she ends up having company that leads to her demise.

    Finally, both of these stories seem to haunt those who survive more than the victims. Lois has the burden of the memories of Lucy to carry even in her old age. She has painting that she sees Lucy in and still recalls the camp and her disappearance. Anyone who hears the story of Francis is haunted by the thought of some mysterious creature dragging the poor girl under the water. Lucy never had to know the hardships that Lois went through. Francis only had to hear a few knocks before she disappeared, but the audience was left with a haunting tale.

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