Landscape: Quandt and Isolation
interaction with the natural, physical landscape. Mindscape can also be a construct of the
character based on his or her experiences. Of specific interest are the following three
plays by James Quandt: Arctic Landscapes, broadcast in February, 1980; The Sea,
broadcast in November, 1980; and The Silence, broadcast in August, 1985.
Quandt’s Arctic Landscapes aired on Arts à la Carte in February 1980 (28:00).
The play fits well into Burke’s quintessential motif of Saskatchewan writing. The play
follows two characters as they cope with death in a Saskatchewan winter. The narration
flows back and forth between the thoughts of two characters, a man and woman. The
form creates the audio “feel” of a pair of monologues. It also sets up a sense of isolation
with two voices side by side, but always alone. The desolate snowscape, a “desert” of
sorts, and the isolated characters are the stuff of Frye’s tragic mode. The only connection
that these two characters seem to have is they have both been touched by situations
similar to Atwood’s Death by Nature motif. Quandt utilizes both drowning and freezing
as threats to human life, drowning and freezing being “the Canadian author’s favourite
methods for dispatching his victims” (Atwood, 55).
The play opens with a man who is seeking refuge under his snowmobile. The
machine has a leaking gas tank that has drained, leaving the man stranded far away from
the camp out of which he is working. The camp is his community. As the man waits to
be rescued, he fears he will freeze to death alone. Freezing is, as Atwood points out, the
Canadian prose writer’s choice for “death by nature”. The apparently doomed man
muses on death and his insignificance before it. To him, death is “Like being in a
vacuum,” or “Like being pressed into nothingness.” The man's feelings of insignificance