The main character in the short story “Land of the Lost” written by Steward O’Nan, is an elder woman. Throughout the entire short story we do not get to know her name or a description of how she looks. She works as a cashier at a BI-LO and lives alone with her German shepherd Ollie, her two sons moved out shortly after their parents got a divorce. Even though we do not get a lot to know about her looks, we get a lot of knowledge on her way of thinking and her mental state. Even though she is mentally stable, she is tremendously dedicated to a case in the media about a missing girl.
She is at a point where it is more of an obsession to find her than it is a hobby or occupation she does when she have the time. She is so dedicated to this cause that she enrolled her dog Ollie in a course for sniffer dogs and beside of that she turns her older boy’s room into a command center. The reason for that is because she wants to feel important and accomplish something. She spends most of her time talking about the case and it got so severe that her boss at the BI-LO asked her to stop talking about it with the costumers.
When she finally stops talking about it she begins to rethink her strategies and stockpile supplies that she will need in her search for the lost girl. The main character is well aware of how her dedication looks for other people that sees it; they would think she is stupid or crazy. That is the reason why she did not tell anyone about it before she had a suspicion about where the body was. After failing the first time in her search for the girl, she gets quiet paranoid and does not want to call anybody before she has made sure that it is a human body that she had found.
She does not think rationally at this point because she is so dedicated and emotionally involved in the case. The point of view in the short story is a third person and all-knowing teller. That way we get to know her feelings and emotion even though it is not from her point of view. It is a good way to stay objective and not only see the situation through her point of view. The reader can get his own impression of the case and if she is obsessed or just very dedicated to help a suffering family that just wants their daughter back.
The title to the short story might refer to two different things. First of it can refer to the missing girl that the main character is looking for. Many cases about kidnapped children and youngsters go cold after a while. Due to many new cases that occur every day, old cases like this one goes cold because they need to focus on more recent ones. The possibility of the missing girl being alive was not there anymore and the FBI had to focus on other things. Second of it could be about the main character.
She feels lost and alone, the only companion she have is her German shepherd Ollie. She feels lost because she does not have any one that considers her important, so she occupies herself with a case that will make her important and most importantly take up her time, so she will not feel alone and lost. But beside of that it can also refer to her having to walk around in the wild nature behind routes, stockade fence and storage rooms, and having to bushwhack her way through an overgrown no-man’s-land, a land that only the lost have seen.
The ending might be viewed as controversial due to the way she handles the situation. On one hand she digs up the body and checks the sleeping bag to make sure it is a body because she does not want to seem crazy or overly obsessed with the case of the missing girl. She does not want to admit or seem like she cannot handle her obsession and dedication to find the missing girls body. But on the other hand it can be viewed as controversial because it might come back and haunt her, that she dug up a body of a missing girl and opened the sleeping bag to check if it was a human body.
She might have tempered with the evidence and if anything is missing, the FBI might think it was her that took it because she has been so emotionally involved with the case. They might think that she took it as a price or bounty, so she could feel mighty, important and have something that would remind her of her accomplishment. But the main character is not obsessed with the fame that she would get if the family and the entire community found out it was her that found and dug up the body.
It is more about the feeling of accomplishment that she want to reward herself with, than it is the fame and the tremendous applaud she would get. The only person that she wants to rub her accomplishment in their face is her own son Brian who did not want her to go search for the missing girl. Mainly because he was concerned about his mother since she is an elderly woman. Beside of that he is also concerned because she did get hurt and twisted her ankle during her search.