Synopsis of wit
Wit begins with Vivian speaking to the audience. She is a patient at a major research hospital and has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer (Edson 3). She treats her sickness with the same impartiality as she would research. Before she was hospitalized, she was professor Bearing. She played the role of scholar and teacher specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne. In her play, Margaret takes the audience through the many achievements of professor Bearing by illuminating on the past and the present achievements. Vivian takes the audience through what happens to her when she is treated with chemotherapy for a miserable eight months. The audience sees her life through what she perceives it to be thus reality is skewed according to Vivian’s experience (Floerich 149).
The play takes us through the various procedures and tests that Vivian undergoes as a cancer patient. Vivian takes the audience twenty years back, when she was a student. She takes the audience back in time to her encounter with Professor Ashford when she decides that nothing will stop her from being a high-achievement scholar in the toughest areas of study- poetry of John Donne. Vivianne also recalls that time in her childhood with her father when she fall in love with words and reading (Edson 19). She recalls her life in the classroom where she was known as a tough lecturer on Donne’s poetry and a demanding lecturer of literature. It is ironic that one of her students is one of the doctors treating, and he has done exceptionally well in the field of medical research.
As Vivian is weakened by the chemotherapy, the doctors seem to take less notice of her diminished state and her pain. Vivian comes to rely on Nurse Sue, who sees her pain and treats her with compassion and kindness. In her earlier days, Vivian focuses on intellect, as opposed to emotional simplicity but when her chemo becomes painful does she give up her tough front and displays fear. For the first time in the play, she is emotional. Finally as Vivian dies, she has learned much regarding life and is now at peace with her mortality and herself (Floerich et al. 30).
Synopsis of the yellow paper
The narrator, and her husband, who is a doctor, rents a beautiful secluded house for the summer. The husband notices changes in his wife and believes she is suffering from temporary depression. The narrator does not like the estate or the room her husband chooses that they reside in. Since her husband is a doctor, he wins all arguments especially those concerning her wellbeing. The narrator would also like to spend time writing, but her husband and brother do not think it’s a good idea in her current state. The narrator is, therefore, living in a house and room she does not like and is forbidden from engaging in activities she does not like. No wonder she becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her house and believes that there is someone trapped in the wall. Before she departs the house, she decides to free the woman in the wallpaper by tearing down the wallpaper. When her husband arrives and meets her peeling of the wall paper, she declares that the woman is finally free.
Like the main character in the play, Edson is a teacher. However, she does not mean reading in the same intellectual capacity Vivian would analyze poems. She means reading literally works to kindergarten children which is her profession to date. Different from her main character of the play, she is a caring teacher and is concerned about her student’s welfare. Edson also differs from Vivian in that she teaches small children. She is contradictory of the character she created. While Vivian values the intellectual value of education, she sees less in the human aspect of caring for others especially her students.
In 1985, she took the job of a clerk in a medical research facility. She was able to interact with patients and watch the interaction of patients and nurses and their other caregivers. This experience is somehow what inspired her to write her play. It took a while before Edson decided on an occupation of her main character in wit (Spur 49). She wanted the character to be someone who moved from power to dependency, and that is how the mighty lecturer Vivian came to be an ovarian cancer patient. She had considered her protagonist to be in the medicine or law profession but chose a highly coherent academic. Vivian discovers that her expertise in literary interpretation has little to do with real life trauma in a disease whose treatment involved going through much pain which cannot be addressed through intellectual argument scholarly research.
Charlotte Perkins goes to see a specialist in 1987 with the hope of curing her recurring nervous breakdown. The specialist suggests and recommends a rest cure which consisted of Charlotte lying in bed for two hours a day and involving in intellectual activity. The routine was to be carried out every day for three months. According to the writer, the experience was near the borderline of utter mental ruin. Gilman went ahead to write yellow paper as a way to disregard the doctor’s advice and to also demonstrates the madness produced by rest cure. The yellow paper has been used by the women’s movement to show the 19th century attitude towards women with mental illness.
Comparison of both personalities.
The narrator in “yellow wall paper” is a submissive wife who lives an extravagant life with her husband. They are able to afford a lavish lifestyle and even take expensive vacations (Horrowitz 10). The narrator in yellow paper depends on her husband to provide for her while in Wit, Dr Bearing depends on her career. She is a self accomplished woman of the 19th century. Vivian Bearing is also an authoritative woman who does not depend each others opinion of how she should live her life. She is self sufficient.
Different from wit, The Wall Paper’s author wrote the book based on her own experiences. On the other hand, Wit is a fictional play. However, the author of Wit derives some of the things in her play from her own surrounding. While Vivian bearing could not be healed by her intellect, Gilman finds comfort in writing a journal. The doctors also order her to take two hours of intellectual thinking as a way to heal her cancer.
Vivian Bearing’s treatment is from her own agreement. The doctors tell her that there is an experimental cure for ovarian cancer, and she takes it. On the other hand, Gilman’s treatment is imposed on her. Her doctor who is also her husband imposes her treatment and even chooses what activities she should indulge in and what activities she should not indulge in. However, both patients go through the same fate of having harsh caregivers who treat them as subjects instead of human beings in need of love and kindness.
Vivian bearing is a woman who has accomplished a lot in her career. Her family is, however, not mentioned in the entire play. It is as if she has no family. Her life revolved around her career and accomplishment so much that even in her sickness, it is only her college professor who comes to visit her. She has no family to lean on. Gilman, on the other hand, has her family when she is sick. Though they are patronizing, they only want the best for her. She is a family woman. She is the classic example of the 19th century woman whose life revolves around her family, and she is submissive too.
Their different diagnoses
While Vivian bearing is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Gilman is diagnosed with depression. Gilman has a mental illness while Bearing has ovarian cancer. It is during the 20th century and ovarian cancer is still new. Researchers are trying to find a cure for it thus Bearing is used as a guinea pig. Despite Vivian’s insensitivity, there is some heroism in her heart as the protagonist. When Dr. Kelekian’s makes her aware that there is experimental, she decides to take it. Though the treatment does not work for Vivian, It brings out further scientific knowledge in cancer research. She also accepts large dosages of chemotherapy even though they come with excruciating pain. From the way she takes the news of her cancer to the way she responds to the treatment, Vivian is a hero. Though she has been unkind in the past, like a hero she learns and accepts her mistakes. In the end, one cannot help but feel compassion for her (Stripling et al 114).
While Vivian battles ovarian cancer both mentally and physically, the poems of John Donne also take a new meaning. The dying professor is able to see the poems reference to God, death and life in a whole new light. They are not only literary works with intellectual meaning but words with personal meaning to a dying soul.
In the final stages of her cancer, she bears incredible pain and nausea. She, however, finds comfort in Nurse Susie with whom they share a Popsicle and discuss healthcare issues. Nurse Susie calls Vivian sweetheart something Vivian admits would not have allowed in the past. However, she admits that, in her condition, such sentiments cannot be helped. She says that now is the time for simplicity and kindness.
Vivian Bearing has always lived a life of the mind. She is trained to be a scholar and a teacher thus values ideas and intellect. On being informed that she has ovarian cancer and that treatment will be difficult, she replies that it appears like it is a matter of life and death. She imagines her exposure to John Donne’s literary works will prepare her for the experience she is about to face. She could not be far from the truth. When she confronts life at its worst does she realize that intellect is only one part of being human. Her wit is insufficient when she must cope with her disease. When terminal cancer threatens to take her life does she truly understand Donne’s spiritual struggles and fears? She poses wit, but that does not help her during the hardest times in her life. What she requires are empathy and kindness. Her keen perception and wisdom that are useful in her perception prove to be useless when she is bedridden. She thought that being smart was all one needed to survive in this life, but is proven wrong when she is sick with a terminal illness. In the end, she comes to an understanding of compassion, and she is redeemed in the end and able to die peacefully.
Gilman, on the other hand, suffers nervous depression. Her husband who is her doctor treats her at the comfort of their house and not in some research facility. Her treatment requires that she does almost nothing around the house but wait to be well. Activities are seen as stresses that might cause her disease to deteriorate. The treatment is meant to drive the patient crazy but to save the people from being crazy. Her treatment involves lying in bed all day and engaging in intellectual activity.
Vivian goes through various tests and is experimented on by doctors. Gilman, on the other hand, has only to take medication and rest. She is not experimented on. Vivian’s treatment is experimental, and the probability of a cure is limited. Both patients are affected adversely by the medication they take for treatment.
Their different caregivers.
Vivian bearing is taken care of by her nurse Susie. Nurse Susie is kind and compassionate. She keeps Vivian company and gives her a popsicle when she has nausea. Sue lacks in Wit and did not do well in school. However, she provides comfort and is human to Vivian, unlike her other caregivers. It is Nurse Susie who makes Vivian realize that qualities such as kindness and a little humanity are important. Unlike her doctors who treat her like an experimental object, Susie is empathetic and comforts her.
Dr Kelekian is seen at the beginning informing Vivian coldly that she has ovarian cancer. Dr Kelekian the other doctors at the research hospital are cold towards the patients and show them no kindness.
Jason is another doctor in the research hospital. He is dedicated to his research and treats his patient objectively. The medical practitioners have an Orwellian term for it- “Clinical”. “Clinical” has several meanings; detached, cold, dispassionate, and disinterested yet the medical stuff use it ironically to feign personal interest. Though they have been trained to show empathy, the doctors reveal that this is a nuisance in their work routine and refer to the show of concern as mere tokenism. They pretend they care about the patient’s welfare while, in the real sense, they ar4e just concerned about their research. As a result, Vivian is able to evaluate her own harshness in her teaching approach.
John and his sister are the narrators care givers in the journal “the yellow wall paper”. It is evident that John loves his wife. However, he is very strict with his wife and imposes treatment on her. His sister, on the other hand, cares for the narrators family when she is sick. The narrator feels insufficient as a woman for having another woman take care of her family.
Gilman writes about the issues of a mentally sick woman in the 19th century. In the 19th century, women were looked down upon in the society. Their mental illness was also taken lightly. This is like in the case of the narrator of “Yellow Wall Paper”. Her husband does not take her illness seriously. He is her physician and clearly he loves his wife, but he does not take her illness seriously at all (Horowitz 25).
Vivian Bearing, on the other hand, is of the 20th century when cancer research is just picking. It is at a time when doctors are self accomplished people. Unlike today, courtesy in the hospital does not exist.
Edson, Margaret. Wit: [a Play]. London: Nick Hern Books, 2000. Print.
Froelich, Bethany J, and Margaret Edson. A Dramaturigal Approach to Margaret Edson's Wit. , 2002. Print.
Horowitz, Helen L. Wild Unrest: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Making of "the Yellow Wall-Paper". New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
Spurr, Barry, and Lloyd Cameron. Excel Hsc Advanced English. Glebe, N.S.W: Pascal Press, 2009. Print.
Stripling, Mahala Y. Bioethics and Medical Issues in Literature. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 2005. Print.