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WIT by Margaret Edson Essay


Wit is a play that was written by Margaret Edson. The play’s main character, Vivian, who is an academician, is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She tries to hide behind her intellectual cover but shades it off at the end to face the reality as presented in life through her medical complication.

This paper seeks to discuss a personal interpretation of the ending of this play. This paper will with this respect review the play and critically examines how it ends. An interpretation of the ending of the play is given with the impact that is felt as a result of the play is brought light.

Wit: review

The play as written by Margaret portrays Vivian as its main character. Vivian enters the scene as a patient who is dressed in a hospital gown. As a patient, Vivian is not presented in good health condition as she has lost her hair to her sickness and has similarly lost her weight.

When she was earlier diagnosed with the disease, Vivian responded with some level of lack of emotions portraying her professionalism as an academician.

She is introduced as a professor in poetry who holds on to ideas of her former professor, Donne. Owing to her academic background, Vivian receives the news with neutrality as though it was one of the elements in her professional works.

Her doctors in the hospital, one of whom is her former student also expresses their academic obsession by recommending an experimental treatment for Vivian and consequently treats Vivian as a tool for experiment.

Owing again to her academic professionalism, Vivian consents to be used for experimental research and in addition chooses to go for the treatment without enlisting support from any relative or friend in terms of company and care.

The intellectual characteristic of Vivian is so intense that upon receipt of the actual status of her sickness, she was not concerned about how, or whether or not she will be cured, but she rather meditated on undertaking a personal step to read about ovarian cancer, giving the disease the level of consideration that she had been giving to subjects in her academic career (Edson 1-9).

In the process of her treatment, Vivian expresses herself as a strong woman through her personal claims. She exposes her pride and gives the assertion that she does not shy away from any sort of problem that faces her. In the process, a theme of death is introduced into the scene through a feature of Vivian’s former professor and mentor.

Two characters, Susie and Jason, are then introduced to Vivian as her medical attendants. Suzie exhibit humane characteristics while Jason is majorly concerned with the experimental treatment that is being offered to Vivian.

In the process of her treatment, Vivian is subjected to high dosage of drugs which induces significant negative impacts on her. She however holds on to her escapist feature and declares that she is adjusting to suffering and still refuses to admit to her real situation.

She on the contrary perceives her situation as an academic article’s worth. One of her doctors, Jason is also portrayed to poses Vivian’s inhumane approach to her sickness as he attends to her (Park 1).

As the play approaches its end, the medical condition of Vivian deteriorates due to the drugs that are being used on her. Besides, the doctors don’t want her to die and keeps on resuscitating her.

Susie, following her empathy towards the patient, is however opposed to this treatment and prefers that Vivian be allowed to die. After holding on to her intellect as a cover to her fears, the patient finally faces the reality and becomes scared.

She realizes that contrary to intellect, only “human kindness and empathy” (Park 1), traits that she can only receive from Susie, are able to help her out of her fears (Park 1). After Susie’s efforts that Vivian be allowed to die, Vivian admits that “life requires more than intellect and wit” (Park 1), she comes to sense and admits to “letting go of Donne, language, and intellect” (Park 1) as though she now recognizes them as vanity (Park 1).

Interpretation of the play’s ending

As the play approaches its end, the author relays one of her theme of isolation. Isolation refers to the aspect of being apart from others. It can also in broader terms be used to explain restraint from association. Larsen and Lubkin defined social isolation as “the objective state of deprivation of social contact and content” (Larsen and Lubkin 88).

Though only admitted by Vivian at the end of the play, the theme of isolation and more specifically social isolation is witnessed through out the play. It is as dominant in the entire book just as much as it dominates the end of the book. Vivian is portrayed to be in self denial of the circumstances around her life.

She is for example faced with sickness which she fails to recognize as an issue in her life, but on the contrary perceive it to be a case that requires academic research like the topics that she deals with in her career. She also fails to enlist support form either her family members, if she had any, or even her friends who could include her colleagues at work.

This also represents a level of isolation from people who could help her. She also generally isolates herself from nature by refusing to admit her own state and condition, and resorting to her intellect as a cover to the reality around her life.

She however comes to at last realize that social aspects such as kindness and empathy are necessities of life. This admission is a reflection of Vivian’s life which had been isolated from such social aspects.

My interpretation is therefore that isolation, regardless of its degree or the elements that an individual isolates him or herself from, is a dangerous thing in life, especially socially. This follows the bitter lesson that Vivian is made to learn in the play.


The play, Wit, is based on an academic professor who is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The professor who is so much absorbed in her career and literacy ideologies fails to notice her infection at its earlier stage. She also has a poor social background with no caring friends and relatives.

Her experience in life as she approaches her death leads her to the realization that social relations are important to people’s lives especially when they are compromised and need human care. The impact of the movie at a personal level is its influence towards more social interactions that can yield necessary support in times of need.

Works Cited

Edson, Margaret. Wit. New York, NY: Nick Hern Books, 2002. Print

Larsen, Patrick and Lubkin Ian. Chronic illness: impact and intervention. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2009. Print

Park, Brent. Wit. Margaret Edson, 2002. Web. <>

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IvyPanda. 2019. "WIT by Margaret Edson." December 5, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/wit-by-margaret-edson-2/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'WIT by Margaret Edson'. 5 December.

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