The Way Wit By Vivian Bearing

1234 Words5 Pages
The way Wit approaches death

Human-kind has a complicated relationship with death. We intellectually regard it as something inevitable, but that doesn’t stop us from feeling baffled or victimized by it. Wit by Margaret Edson portrays an attempt at understanding this relationship. Its main character, Vivian Bearing, is an accomplished literature professor who is facing the last stage of ovarian cancer. Following Vivian’s last days of life, the work explores mortality by examining one’s personal relationship with death through literature and society’s responsibility toward the dying through characterization. To one, is Death an end or a beginning? Is it a friend or foe? Vivian Bearing knows her death is inevitable, but that doesn’t keep her
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Using a semicolon creates a dramatic pause before the last statement, which suggests a strong exclamation, calling out Death in a battle cry. Thus, this interpretation steers one toward embracing the denotation of the poem, which personifies and antagonizes Death to combat it, of which Vivian Bearing sees as a witty way to cope with the inevitability of one’s mortality. Yet with a coma, Helen Gardner’s edition forces one to interpret the poem differently. “Life, death. Soul, god. Past, present. Not insuperable barriers, not semicolons, just a coma,” Professor Ashford insisted, stressing the way in which the poem works to surmount these barriers. Thus, in a way, this makes Death Be Not Proud similar to a Carpe Diem work that stresses the fleeting nature of life and encourages one to immerse in it instead of combating death. Similarly, Ashford urged Vivian to get out of the library and enjoy life while it last, which she sadly failed to…show more content…
Being a lonely patient, her only friend was the constant flashbacks from her tenure as a professor. First came the memories of her success as she published volumes after volumes of literary analysis of Jon Donne and her praisal of the way his poetry reveals “how good you really are” (Norton 1507). At this stage, she relied on her interpretation of Donne’s sonnet and combats death coldly and rationally. In discussion with Dr Kelekian, she doesn’t hesitate to embrace a strong and dangerous experimental chemotherapy method. Within her mind were the constant urge to know more facts and an one-step-removed void of feelings, unlike that of someone who is facing a terminal disease. Then, things take a turn when Vivian ceased to see the world through Jon Donne and looked at those who surrounded her instead. Stunned by the cold treatment from Jason Posner, her former student turned doctor, she began to question the way that she perceives life. In a flashback to her teaching tenure, she regrets an instant when she refused to grant a student an extension on an assignment as his grandmother had recently passed
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