Vivian: Sharp, and sudden. Then it would go away. Or I would be tired. Exhausted. I was working on a major product, the article on John Donne for The Oxford Encyclopedia of English Literature. It was a great honor. But I had a very strict deadline. (Edson 28)
Vivian says at the beginning of the play that she is going to die, which made me think it is going to be a theme to this play. Vivian describes herself as a “professor of seventeenth- century poetry, specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne” (5). I felt bad that when Susie questioned her, “You’re not having a lot of visitors, are you?”(34). She replied “None, to be precise´ (34).
I felt so bad for Vivian when Jason is questioning her. He isn’t fully paying attention. He asks her if her parents are still living. She tells him, “My father, suddenly, when I was twenty, of a heart attack. My mother, slowly, when I was forty-one and forty-two, of cancer. Breast Cancer.” (23) He then question “cancer?” and she has to repeat “Brest Cancer.” I just felt annoyed for her.
Vivian tells us that she “survived eight treatments of Hexamethophosphacil and Vinplatin at the full dos, ladies and gentlemen. I have broken the record. I have become something of a celebrity.” (53) I took this as she has hope. She could survive this too, but hope is lost when Vivian says, “My cancer is not getting cured, is it” (66) and when she says, “they never expected it to be, did they” (67). It broke my heart that she had to come to the realization that death is inevitable. She was in excruciating pain all the time. She tries to downplay it, but it can’t be ignored.
This play touched me because I lost both of my grandfathers to cancer. I know they had hope and high spirits in the beginning, but then lost all hope. I know they were annoyed with the treatments, mostly the effects of the treatments. The play made me feel better because we did not leave them. They had visitors until the end. Vivian teaching lessons made me think of how my Nonno spent more time teaching me different Italian words and Italian songs once he found out he was sick.