In To Room Nineteen Susans 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 husbands 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 didnt 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 friends disappearance. She would never go up North, to Robs 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 childhood camp leader Cappie, trying to unfairly blame her for the death or disappearance of her friend Lucy: Didnt what? Says Cappie softly. Didnt what, Lois? Lois does the worst thing she begins to cry. Cappie gives her a look like a pounce. Shes got what she wanted. (p.34)
Susan is isolated by her own unhappiness and growing mental instability. She struggles to maintain appearances and live up to societal expectations. She said to Matthew in their bedroom: I think there must be something wrong with me. (p.875) Her husband is no support to her and as he continues to carry on an affair, the distance between them increases, as well as her feelings of isolation. Susan hires a nanny to avoid the responsibilities of her family in order to try and escape them. She finds a room at an anonymous inn, which she uses as reprieve but this only amplifies her feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The key difference between the two protagonists is that over time, Lois is able to come to terms with her conflict and learn to accept it. She realizes that her friends disappearance is not her fault; the camp leader simply needed someone to blame. For Cappie, the idea of having no explanation for Lucys disappearance is simply too much to comprehend. Though the experience still haunts her, Lois tries to move on with her life.
Susan, however, falls victim to her conflict. She is unable to cope, when her husband confronts her asking if she is having an affair, she cannot face the prospect of coming to terms with the truth and reality of her life. Seeing no end to her struggles, Susan decides to commit suicide in room 19.
Both women are isolated from the world and the people around them due in part to the circumstances of their lives. Although both sets of circumstances are very different, they are the root cause of the conflict of the worlds in which both women seek to remove themselves from. Each character takes a different path that leads ultimately to the difference between life and death.