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Wit by Margaret Edson - Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2676 words Published: 11th Jul 2017

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In the play Wit by Margaret Edson, the relationships between the doctors are in need of examination. Dr. Harvey Kelekian, and Jason Posner, is morally viewed characters because of their discussions with the patient. Furthermore, the death of Vivian Bearing in the play Wit by Margaret Edson plays a role by teaching Vivian how to use compassion. In which, she could than die in more of a peaceful manner. “The doctors help Vivian fight the battle against ovarian cancer and ultimately revealing that kindness is a simple reward of action “(Edson, 2012). “However, the lack of compassion that Vivian receives from the doctors reveals that she is like all humans, who long for kindness. Dr. Jason forgot his bedside manners in a clinical manner showing how he feels for Vivian” (Edson, 2012).

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Dr. Jason would not properly greet Vivian during her examination process for the treatment of ovarian cancer and left her stomach uncovered, she was not properly diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which left her unstablized. Vivian felt that there is no respect for her, she is sarcastic towards Dr. Jason and makes comments towards Dr. Jason because he does not show some consideration for her. Vivian rejects Susie the nurse, who is kind to her and eventually becomes appreciative of the kindness that the nurse shows her during her stay in the hospital for chemotherapy; the nurse cares for Vivian’s wellbeing and cares for her physically. Furthermore, the nurse does whatever she can to make Vivian’s stay in the hospital comfortable. Vivian’s nurse has every intent to be straightforward with her and her disapproval of her doctor’s choices. Due to honesty and respect, “Vivian befriended Susie and the only person in the entire play she let close to her. ” With phrases such as I wanted her to come and see me” (Edson, p. 64).

The play takes place during the final hours of Dr. Vivian Bearing, a university professor of English, dying of ovarian cancer. Vivian recalls the initial diagnosis of stage 1V metastatic ovarian cancer from her oncologist Dr. Harvey Kelekian. “The doctor than proposes an experimental chemotherapeutic treatment regimen consisting of eight rounds at full dosage” (Edson, 2012). Over the course of the play, Vivian reflects on her life through the intricacies of the english language, especially the use of Wit in the metaphysical poetry of John Donne. Throughout the play, she recites Donne’s Holy Sonnet X, “Death be not proud”, while reflecting upon her condition” (Wilson, 2004). “Vivian has lived her life alone, is unmarried and without children, her parents are deceased and she has no emergency contacts” (Edson, 2012).

“Margaret Edson is about a woman dealing with her life’s issues with an uncommon approach. Edson got the idea for the plot after many hours of volunteering at a hospital” (Wilson, 2009). Instead of being gloomy and negative which lead Vivian’s remains witty and tough during her struggle with different stages of ovarian cancer. Throughout her life, Vivian and those around her have been an active part of student mentor relationships with someone retaining to Vivian’s condition. “Whether it was personality or behavioral changes, a change in life direction, at least one person involved in each relationship underwent a transformation” (Wilson, 2009). The power and result of these relationships, serving as fundamental themes in playwrights formed one or both participants and their future goals at the times the relationships were occurring.

Vivian also tried to thoroughly illustrate her point and eventually gave up trying to understand, but unconsciously comprehended her viewpoints. The important information she utilized throughout her life because of this conversation and relationship was how to better understand John Donne’s pieces, allowing her to expertly teach his work (Cite). She was also able to discover the differences between different effects on his sonnets and even herself. A valuable relationship not experienced with her treatment was between Dr. Jason Posner. Vivian’s primary doctor Dr. Harvey Kelekian, Jason worked directly under him and always listened to his mentor and showed off what he learned in front of him. “Addressing Kelekian the quizzes than regarding Vivian’s medicine options with the question “ok, problem areas with Hex and Vin” (Edson, 2012).

Dr. Kelekian had pushed Jason to learn as much as he can, while also doing something beneficial to medicine. Dr. Jason was working on a research project and constructed on Vivian and the dedication to Dr. Kelekian, which his job was so strong that Jason did not realize how impersonal he was to his patient. Both doctors want to keep Vivian alive and didn’t always take their individual desires and feelings into account when directly interacting with them. The play gives a visual context in comparison to the book, in which describes her as intellectual and challenged person. Thus, Vivian becomes emotional during the chemotherapy treatment. Additionally, Vivian has a Ph.D., and is a renowned professor of English who has spent years studying and teaching the brilliant, yet difficult metaphysical sonnets of John Donne.

When Vivian was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, her approach to the study has been aggressively getting worse. Comparison, of the book illustrates how the course of her illness could make a change in her life. In addition, her time at the hospital is as a prize patient at a major teaching hospital, Vivian comes to review her life and her work with a profound humor that are transformative both for her and for the audience. Thus, “Vivian Bearing walks on the empty stage during the play, pushing her IV pole. She is fifty, tall and very thin, bare foot, and completely bald” (Edson. p.7).

Vivian describes herself in detail that she is dying and her ovarian cancer is progressively getting worse. “Furthermore, she speaks with Dr. Kelekian and explains that the doctors are developing an experimental combination of drugs to help cure Vivian’s ovarian cancer, which is also a stage three that is moving into stage four. Thus, “Dr. Kelekian then describes to Vivian that she must be very tough” (Edson, p.12). Furthermore, the doctor stated that there are side effects and the treatment of chemotherapy would be good for her. The doctor than stated that she also has stage three and four metastatic ovarian cancers and there is no stage five. Furthermore, “it appears to be a matter as the saying goes of life and death” (Edson, p.13). Thus, “Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so” (Edson, p. 13).

“Vivian than explains that she is in isolation because she is being treated for cancer and her treatment imperils her health” (Edson, p.39). “Vivian also states that John Donne would revel in it, if he wrote a poem about it. She also stated that her students would flounder in it, because paradox is too difficult to understand” (Edson, p.39). “Every ambiguity, every shifting awareness could draw so much from the play. Now at the height of her powers, she grandly disconnects herself from the IV” (Edson, p.40). Technicians remove the bed and hand her a pointer; “The poetry of the early seventeenth century. “What has been called the metaphysical school, considers an intractable mental puzzle by exercising the outstanding human faculty of the era, namely wit” (Edson, p.40).

“The greatest Wit, the greatest English poet, some would say was John Donne. In the Holy Sonnets, Donne applied his capacious, agile Wit to the larger aspects of the human experience: life, death, and God” (Edson, p.40). Susie than explains that the doctor’s like to save lives. Therefore, anything is okay, as long as life continues. It does not matter if you are hooked up to a million machines. Kelekian is a great researcher and everything like Jason has honor and wants to know more things. Susie than states that she can be full code, “which means that if your heart stops, they’ll call a Code Blue and the code team will come and resuscitate you and take you to Intensive Care until you stabilize again” (Edson, 2012).

“Alternatively, you can be “Do Not Resuscitate”, so if your heart stops we will just let it; you will be “DNR”. You can think about it, but I wanted to present both choices before Kelekian and Jason talk to you” (Edson, p.54). “E.M. Ashford stated to Miss Bearing that you take this to lightly. Moreover, this is a metaphysical poetry, not the modern novel. In addition, “The standards of scholarship and critical reading, which would apply to any other text, are simply enough for Vivian” (Edson, 2012). Thus, “the effort will total the results in a meaningful way of the sonnet, begins with a valiant struggle with death calling on all the forces of intellect, and vanquish the enemy” (Edson, 2012). Additionally, it is ultimately about overcoming the seemingly in separable barriers separating life, death, and eternal life.

At that moment, Vivian explains her death as a metaphysical conceit. Furthermore, Vivian’s former undergraduate student, Jason is trying casually to understand Vivian undergoing chemotherapy. Therefore, “Vivian Bearing, the main character from Margaret Edson’s play Wit is not like those other teachers. She is tough and nonetheless does not care about her students and their many struggles” (Wilson, 2004).Thus, “Her only passion is for 17th century poetry, particularly the complex sonnets of John Donne” (Edson, 2012). In some parts of the play, Dr. Kelekian seems sympathetic towards Vivian leading readers to believe that he is a morally sound character. However, “at some points in the play Dr. Kelekian seems to discuss Vivian as a parent asking their child to handle an adult issue” (Edson, 2012).

Furthermore, the doctor knows how much pain she is going through, which Vivian will be in pain during the Hex and Vin treatments. Making sure that Vivian is trying to recognize the side effects of the treatment. “In question, Dr. Kelekian invites knowledge to Vivian making her feel important, although the two doctors are completely different in subjects of doctorates, while Dr. Kelekian units himself as well as Vivian as educators showing his humanity towards her” (Wilson, 2009). He is steadfast about Vivian’s chemotherapy treatment and does not consider Vivian’s opinions creating a wall between them. Moreover, as Vivian goes through series of tests and ways to treat her ovarian cancer, Vivian undergoes a series of tests and then knows the prognosis is not good. However, Vivian tries to overcome her fear of hospitalization to get better.

Additionally she expresses her thoughts as being a teacher and scholar specializing in the holy sonnets of John Donne. Furthermore, Vivian tries to illuminate her achievements in the world of scholarship and show what happens to her as she receives treatment of aggressive chemotherapy for eight months. What Vivian is trying to perceive is the reality of her life’s experiences about how she will overcome the aggressive chemotherapy treatment. Thus, “Vivian recalls her child hood with her father and takes a look back from her past of an counter with her graduate school professor, E.M. Ashford, after she decides that nothing will stop her from becoming a top-notch scholar” (Edson, 2012).

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Furthermore, Jason tries to save Vivian’s life; in treating her cancer, Vivian’s chemotherapy weakens, the cancer starts to take full control of her body. The doctor is taking less and less notice of her, which she than relies on her nurse, who sees her suffering from the pain of her treatments. Furthermore, the nurse is kind to her and helps her decide, if she wants a DNR, which is do not resuscitate. Vivian’s enjoyment of Susie’s care and company, and affection were shown. “Susie’s kindness also allowed Vivian to feel comfortable enough to finally open up about her real feelings of fear and confusion as she sorrowfully confided in her and said, “I am scared” (Edson, 2012). She than says how she do not feel sure of herself anymore, Vivian rests in peace with herself, as she dies. Thus, “through the morally ambiguous character of Dr. Harvey Kelekian and Jason Posner, who tried to help Vivian to recognize the mistakes of the past and see that kindness is simple, nevertheless a powerful gesture” (Edson, 2012).

Vivian has strength and weaknesses that are exposed because of Susie’s own qualities, which helped her, emphasize how people are only capable of being who they are because of their experiences through their life. Vivian had educated, Susie had showed her some sense of weakness and she has been educated to the level it takes to be a nurse whereas, Vivian has gone beyond her own expectations. This shows that she has strength in knowledge of English literature and reveals the weakness of Susie being illiterate. Vivian than comes to terms and finally learns how to be compassionate on her last few months on earth due to her ‘deathly’ illness and the way one person can affect another person. Though Vivian meets an unfortunate end in her life she than decides that the only resolution is peace.

She exhibits her life and her final days to drive home a message of kindness and compassion, turning a sad ending to a happy conclusion. Margaret Edson utilizes Vivian’s flash backs not only to provide back ground of her life, but also provide evidence to her past actions and former passions. Leading to the audiences and understanding of her strive for knowledge and the lack of success without the human interaction to accompany her Wit. Vivian has viewpoints that the strength and the pride in her prestigious position, which maintained and would garner a fixed sense of fulfillment. She found that the simplicity of human kindness could have an impact greater than the answer she thought she had acquired from years of study. Life and death had beginnings and endings and people come in terms with the end of life, people make life more enjoyable and how they present their life.

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Givhan, Jennifer. “Crossing The Language Barrier: Coalescing The Mind / Body Split And Embracing Kristeva’s Semiotic In Margaret Edson’s “Wit”. “Women & Language 32.1 (2009): 77. Biography

Keaveney, Madeline M. “Death Be Not Proud: An Analysis of Margaret Edson’s “Wit”. ” Women & Language 27.1 (2004): 40. Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 13 Dec. 2012

Kristeva’s Semiotic In Margaret Edson’s “Wit”. “Women & Language 32.1 (2009): 77. Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 13 Dec. 2012

“What are fundamental themes found in Margaret Edson’s short-drama, Wit.” YoExpert.com | Education | Theater. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.Education | Theater. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

“What are fundamental themes found in Margaret Edson’s short-drama, Wit.” YoExpert.com | Education | Theater. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

“What are fundamental themes found in Margaret Edson’s short-drama, Wit.” YoExpert.com | Education | Theater. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.


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