Wit Every student has at some point in his or her educational career had a teacher that seemed completely unreasonable and immune to any sympathy towards the student. In the play Wit by Margaret Edson the main character is Dr. Vivian Bearing who is an esteemed professor of early 17th century poetry and fits the bill of the hard-nosed stubborn professor. This character is diagnosed with cancer and the play is about her treatments and battle with the cancer that ultimately at the end of the play leads to her death. Throughout the play itself Dr.
Bearing goes through many trials and tribulations and her interactions with the audience, doctors, former students, and herself all show how she goes through stages in order to come to terms with her illness. In the first stage of the play where Vivian is initially diagnosed she shows signs of defiance, which gives the play a real life scenario feeling because it is natural to be in denial for a person under her circumstances. She feels as if she can beat this disease and get back to teaching as soon as possible. There are many of times that she tells the doctors (and audience) to keep giving the highest dosing of chemotherapy.
Dr. Bearing understands what she is going to go through and is in terms with that on an intellectual level. She even reads books on medical terminology so as to not feel inferior to the doctors when they are reading her charts to her. This also shows the sense of denial and ignorance Dr. Bearing has to the big picture. And this big picture is that in the end she will die. All her life she has been studying and she relates to the two doctors in that way because they are taking her as information and data and she respects that in the beginning.
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Her attitude toward being treated as data begins to change and she begins to resent that feeling. Then she has a flashback to a certain point in her teaching career that she was the same way with her students. This one particular student asked for an extension on a paper because he had to travel home due to his grandmother dying. Dr. Bearing responds by saying, “Do what you want, but the paper is due when it is due. ” This flashback hits home to her because she understands how the student felt because she is now being treated that way by the doctors which angers her.
Throughout the play there is one character that sees Dr. Bearing as a human being, not just data. This is Susie, the head nurse assigned to care for Vivian. These two have an interesting relationship. The entire time Dr. Bearing is in the hospital no one visits her and really Susie is the only person actually caring for her. In the beginning of the play it seems that the main character is annoyed by Susie in a way because at times she corrected her and despised the question of, “How are you feeling today? ” This slowly begins to change and the relationship switches when Susie tries to talk to Dr.
Bearing about reducing the chemotherapy treatments. Both of the characters realize now that the cancer is not diminishing and is continually spreading so Susie is showing compassion by not simply labeling her and wanting her to suffer in order to collect more data. Dr. Bearing comes to terms with this and enters a stage of depression. During this part of the play Vivian distances herself from human contact even more and spends her days simply in bed alone, only having little communication with Susie. The last emotion Dr. Vivian Bearing goes through is that of recognition.
This last part of the play also shows the development and trust in the relationship between Susie and Bearing. Dr. Bearing tells Susie, not her head doctor, family member, or anyone else that she wants to be labeled as a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) patient. A decision like this is generally talked over between a patient and family or the head physician but Vivian sees that Susie is the only person who cares for her in some way at this point in her life basically. The characters throughout the play help Dr. Bearing come to terms with her illness, whether it is positively or negatively.
The former student of hers’ and when she told that story to the audience showed her how she was missing that feeling of compassion both for and now towards her. While she does not regret how she taught she realizes that she should have treated the students better because she is feeling how they felt with how the doctors are treating her now. In the end it is Susie who helps Dr. Bearing grasp and accept the fact that she is going to die, but she will not die alone now because of her knew friend Susie and that is what Dr. Bearing has been searching for all along, company and support.
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