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i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

White Light & the Meaning of Life

May 05, 2005

I couldn't help but to see the similiarities between Vivian in Margaret Edson's play "Wit" and Mrs. Wilson in Thom Jones' short story "I want to live!" Both women are diagnosed with cancer - Vivian has "advanced metastatic ovarian cancer" and Mrs. Wilson has breast and uterus cancer - in other words, both women have cancers in traditionally feminine regions.

Interestingly, neither character is particularly feminine in her portrayal: Vivian is a rather cold and clinical professor of literature whose attitude more closely mirrors that of her distant physicians than the warm and caring nurse Susie. Mrs. Wilson is a mother, yes, but one who is unable to speak the words "I love you" to her only daughter, even as she is dying.

Both have already lost loved ones to the battle with cancer (Vivian's mother and Mrs. Wilson's husband has previously succumb) so both know ahead of time that the battle will be tough and long and ultimately fruitless.

I think the primary difference between the two is that Edson's play offers a more positive ending, one that suggests the potential of salvation, while Jones' work ends with the passage:

"She... nodded in and out. Back and forth. In and out. She went back and forth. In and out. Back and forth... in and out. There wasn't any tunnel or white light or any of that. She just... died."

What is it about white light that suggests hope and life after death? Is the primary difference between the two endings that one has white light and the other does not? Does the white light represent simply heaven or is there more to it that that. I think this would make an interesting paper topic... I, however, am already finished with my literature papers this semester (whew!).

Moira at 05:04 PM :: Comments (1) :: ::
Comments:

Yes, it's a shame more people didn't get to look at both works. I thought it would have been a great topic, too.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at May 5, 2005 05:39 PM
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