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In the play, Wit, by Margaret Edson, an educative theme of redemption is explored. The playwright vividly depicts the kind of lives that most scholars live and shows the disadvantages of the same. By the end of the play, the protagonist, Dr. Bearing is redeemed from being unemotional and arrogant. Initially, she puts too much importance on intelligence and thus she is uncaring and arrogant but by the end of the play, she realizes her weaknesses and redeems herself from these vices.
She achieves this after she is diagnosed with ovarian cancer and she interacts with contrasting characters in the hospital. Each of the stated characters plays a very important role in the redemption of Dr. Bearing although they have very different personalities. In a nutshell, the play is about the redemption of Dr. Bearing from her unemotional personality.
Dr. Bearing’s pre-cancer life
The life that Dr. Bearing lives before she is diagnosed with cancer shows a great need for redemption. She is utterly arrogant, unemotional and she has an unreasonable drive to achieve intellectual goals. She is too hard on her students and shows a behavior that is devoid of understanding. After one of her students requests for extension of deadline due to a death in her family, she arrogantly replies, “do what you will but the paper is due when it is due” (Edson 63).
This is a serious lack of empathy which is an emotional problem. What she is concerned about is that the students should fulfill their academic duties and she does not care about the welfare of her students. She thus evidently suffers a big problem that makes the reader anticipate redemption as the play unfolds and as she fights ovarian cancer.
Dr. Bearing faces reality
After a cancer diagnosis, Dr. Bearing still has social problems. She wants to be recognized by workers at the hospital as a doctor and laughs at students in the hospital after they fail to answer their tutor a question about the disadvantages of chemotherapy.
However, she soon realizes that her intelligence is not of much help in the hospital and that she needs to relate well to people. This ultimately makes her seek redemption from her unemotional personality. She, therefore, starts making efforts to form interpersonal relationships with hospital staff and thus she is ultimately redeemed.
The loneliness that she faces after being diagnosed with cancer also plays a very important role in making her appreciate interpersonal relationships. She starts studying other people’s personalities as she relates to them and her analysis of these personalities makes her realize the need to change. She also gets guidelines on how to relate with other people. Although she lives an unemotional life before cancer, she develops an admirable character by the end of the play.
Roles played by other characters to redeem Dr. Bearing
Other characters in the play significantly influence the change that Dr. Bearing goes through. One of the aforementioned characters is Jason, her former student who is working in the hospital where Dr. Bearing is getting cancer treatment. Jason is used by the playwright to make the protagonist realize the futility of the life she has been living. He is hardly emotional and thus he does not care about cancer patients as he conducts his research on cancer.
In him, Dr. Bearing gets a chance to see the kind of life she lives and experience its effects on other people. It is after interacting with Jason that Dr. Bearing dislikes her character of being unemotional and giving too much priority to intelligence. An example of events that contributes to her epiphany is when she initiates a conversation with Jason about dying. Instead of understanding that she just fears death, Jason believes that she has dementia.
A parallel can be drawn between the stated unemotional behavior by Jason and the behavior of the protagonist in class. She is unemotional towards her students and thus she does not relate to them well. After interacting for some time with Jason, Dr. Bearing realizes that like other scholars, she “prefers intelligence to humanity” (Edson 58). Jason can, therefore, be viewed as the person who brings her to a state of self-awareness and thus starts the process of redeeming her from being unemotional.
After Dr. Bearing realizes that being unemotional is not good, she gets a role model in Susie. Susie is a nurse at the hospital where she is getting cancer treatment. Dr. Bearing admires the character of Susie although she is not that intelligent. Dr. Bearing describes her as being “never very sharp to begin with” (Edson 59) but she respects and admires her for her caring and positive personality.
Susie, therefore, plays a very important role in the redemption of Dr. Bearing because she makes her see what she has been missing all those years; an emotional and caring character. After relating to Susie for some time, Dr. Bearing starts developing a positive and friendly character. This can be evidenced by the conversation that the two, Dr. Bearing and Susie hold as Susie prepares morphine for Dr. Bearing. The conversation is that of friends who respect and care for each other.
When Susie feels dumb for failing to know the meaning of soporific, Dr. Bearing does not make a big deal out of it. She dismisses it as being funny. This can be viewed as evidence of the redemption that Dr. Bearing has continually undergone. From this discussion, therefore, it is apparent that Susie’s relationship with Dr. Bearing is very instrumental in making Dr. Bearing experience how she ought to live after being redeemed from her unemotional character.
The play, Wit, is a masterpiece of theme development. The playwright introduces the theme of redemption by showing the unemotional life that the protagonist, Dr. Bearing lives and goes on to set appropriate circumstances for theme development. For instance, the fact that Dr. Bearing is diagnosed with cancer is used in many ways to develop the theme of redemption in the play. It is after cancer diagnosis and being lonely that the protagonist realizes that she has not been living well and starts evaluating other people.
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This evaluation of other people is what eventually enables her to be fully convinced that she needed to break away for her unemotional behavior. In the hospital, appropriate characters are created to develop the stated theme. As mentioned earlier, Jason serves to make the protagonist experienced the treatment she was giving others and evaluate it while Susie serves as a role model. These characters, therefore, play very important roles in redeeming Dr. Bearing from her unemotional behavior.
Edson, Margaret. Wit. Faber and Faber, inc.