During our lives, we meet different types of people that add to our personalities and form us as unique characters. Some people are meant to give us a lesson, others to add something, or even to change our beliefs and knowledge. In the last moments of life, we evaluate what were the most important people in our lives and the moments that stood out with them. In a similar perspective, Vivian Bearing in the play Wit by Margaret Edson revealed the last moments of her life suffering from stage four ovarian cancer. Because her life continued until the last moment, she lived simultaneously with the presence of the doctors and nurses around her, but also with the memories of the people she met in her life, family members, and professors that influenced her journey.
“Now is a time for, dare I say it, kindness. I thought being extremely smart would take care of it. But I see I have been found out.”
― Margaret Edson, Wit
When Vivian was treated in the hospital for her cancer, she also realized that some personalities, like Jason, intrigued her with the way they acted. Vivian was a dedicated seventeenth-century scholar that studied John Donne’s sonnets her whole life and had an important contribution to the English department. Jason, a young and ambitious resident dedicated to cancer research had a very similar approach to life as Vivian. Their wisdom went beyond emotions, and both, Jason and Vivian focused their whole life on knowledge and research. Sometimes they even ignored other aspects of life, like grief or frightening. That change in Vivian’s perception was because she had to reconsider her life. I noticed these aspects, the similarities, and how Vivian mirrored herself in Jason’s behaviors.
In her student time, Vivian distanced herself from reality and lived in her poems, only identifying as a scholar of seventeenth-century poetry. She tried to find comfort and only felt secure in an area that was familiar to her, the library. The company of other people made her anxious and she could not find a connection with the “students on the lawn, talking about nothing, laughing” (Edson 15). Jason, career orientated and passionate about cancer research, lacks human interaction also and looked forward to a laboratory research career rather than communication. Besides his well-known knowledge of medical words he always found a struggle in following the manners regarding patients, he must visit. I observed these aspects about Jason “It was not because he was worried about his professor, but because he felt so embarrassed that he did not know what to say to Vivian and had to leave first”. In other words, language goes beyond terms and the interactions between people can have a significant aspect when comes to communication and understanding something very special as treating a patient with cancer. Facing her own death, Vivian realized that accepting simple emotions and human connection was an important achievement.
“It is not my intention to give away the plot; but I think I die at the end.”
― Margaret Edson, Wit
During the period she was a professor she had times when she ignored the reality of death and grief in front of an assignment on time. When a student came to her to ask for an extension for his paper because his grandmother passed away, she answered him detached from the situation, “do what you will, but the paper is due when it is due”(Edson 63). Her emotions were absent, and she did not express any empathy for the student’s loss. Focused only on research and ignoring their feelings for her, Jason “is so career-oriented and self-absorbed that he does not think twice about creating a bond with Vivian, and only treats her as a lab rat”. That was a wake-up call and made Vivian realize that life is not only about intellect, rationality, and wit. The harsh truth in front of her regarding her illness made her lodging for some empathy, and to realize as noticed that “she is now being treated similarly by Jason, which is making her feel a bit of remorse for her past”.
Vivian’s pain was a brutal awakening to the realities of life that left her without words. Losing her words was associated with losing control which was very painful for her. Vivian finally accepted that just being smart was not going to trick death, and she affirmed that “I’m scared. Of, God. I want…I want…No. I want to hide. I just want to curl up in a little ball” (Edson 70). In the last scene of the play, Jason also lost control when he decided on his own how to react in a critical situation. “This is a significant moment in the play because Jason, being the scholar that he is, realizes his mistake and gets rebuked by the code team for making a big error. Maybe this will lead Jason to think about his future actions more, especially regarding how he treats his future patients”. A dramatic event shook the perspective of life for Jason and Vivian, and these intense moments under stress and facing death contributed to their realization of important aspects of life.
“My only defense is the acquisition of vocabulary.”
― Margaret Edson, Wit
Initial thoughts are not always the best choice, and someone’s beliefs can change over time. Personalities can change around different people, but when found similar characteristics in the people we have to interact it can have a mirror effect that makes to stand out even more about what might be wrong with our beliefs. In the play Wit, Vivian saw herself in Jason’s approach to life and gave him a lesson too. After that experience, the way he saw life and death from a different angle might also change his beliefs.
Edson, Margaret. W;t, First edition, Faber and Faber, Inc, 1999