Written by Edson Margaret, “Wit” revolves around the life of a woman who is faced by a number of challenges that force her to make different life choices. The storyline revolves around the life of Doctor Bearing Vivian, who throughout the novel deals with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer stage-four. Readers are made aware of the fact that Bearing’s life is governed by special relationships that in turn end up influencing the lives of those involved. For instance, there are apprentice-mentor connections that end up affecting the lives of those involved in aspects of behavior or society especially in the sense that said one if not both of the partnering people end up changing their goals in life. These ideas form the basis of the play as its major themes revolve around the same. This paper seeks to identify the presence of autonomy in the play while at the same time identify sections that distort the aforementioned autonomy.
In the “Oxford Dictionary of English”, Stevenson (2010) defines autonomy as “the right or condition of self-government: Freedom from external control or influence, independence” (p.109) With regard to the play, there is the need to analyze the presented themes and characters to determine instances where autonomy as defined is present or lacking. In addition, the aforementioned instances will be expounded on and analyzed using availed information in the novel and personal perceptions of the same.
After the cancer diagnosis, Bearing Vivian undergoes a radical and painful treatment that is still under experiment. She hires a nurse who turns out to be the one person that remains close to her and in turn, helps her add a “Do Not Resuscitate” regulation to her medical file. The added clause in her medical chart meant that she was to be allowed to die and consequently prevented any further medical intercessions from the hospital. When her heart stops, an alarm sounds from the hospital’s crash team who shock her heart to start beating again. Despite the nurse’s arguments that Bearing did not want that, the team subjects her to more treatment that is violent and in turn violet her wishes.
The prime form of autonomy in the novel lay in Bearing Vivian’s career as a doctor (Edson 1999). While societal ideologies lean towards the ideas of a woman being a homemaker and caregiver in the home, Bearing is a fully established doctor and in turn, a recognized woman in her profession. For instance, Doctor Kelekian Harvey recognizes her profession in the first scene as he tells her that she has cancer (Edson, 1999, 7). However, this form of independence is counteracted by the fact that she later depends on the aforementioned relationships as her cancer progresses and her condition continues to deteriorate.
Bearing, a doctor, is revered by her peers and is a respectable woman in her profession. There is evidence in the text, which shows that she is good at her occupation, as stated before other doctors recognize her position (Edson, 1999, 7). It can be argued that members of the crash team that later tries to revive her are possible colleagues, associates that are determined not to lose the doctor, who is one of their own (Edson, 1999, 57). However, her cancer diagnosis robs her of this sense of independence therefore, counteracting the view of autonomy in Bearing’s life. Because of her illness, the sick doctor has to depend on a nurse to take care of her needs and communicate her wishes to the hospital. Consequently, she is subjected to experimental treatment (Edson, 1999, 17-23), which, Edson suggests being torturous. Her inability to stand by her decisions gives evidence to the aspect of a personal autonomy breach in the novel.
The second form of autonomy is the “Do Not Resuscitate” order that she issues about her health (Edson, 1999, 55). It is safe to assume that her medical profession helps her understand that she has minimal chances of survival and so decides to end the pain. Her ability to decide when she suffered enough when making decisions concerning the treatment shows that she is capable of making independent decisions. For instance, she only involves her nurse when she needs someone to help her add the order and make sure that her wishes are fulfilled. The shock team is however unaware of the “Do Not Resuscitate” order and goes ahead to submit doctor Bearing to more treatment (Edson, 1999, 62). In this case, there is another form of personal autonomy as Bearing Vivian makes a decision regarding her will to live or to die.
In conclusion, Edson exhibits different forms of autonomy in the novel while, at the same time, counteracting said autonomous situations with their opposites. As the storyline finds its basis on the life of Bearing Vivian who is faced by a situation that is unable to handle despite her independence. It is important to note that her illness plays an important role in her loss of independence and consequently the involvement of outside forces in influencing and at times changing her decisions regarding her situation. Her established relationship with the nurse can be viewed as a loss of self-sufficiency, but she still plays a role in helping her regain control. In this case, it is clear that while involvement of other people can violate the definitions of autonomy, they can also help deliver the required outcomes.
Edson, M. (1999). Wit. New York: Dramatists Play Service.
Stevenson, A. (2010). Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.