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Wit and the power of words

Reading Margaret Edson's play, W;t, brought to mind some of the things that I had mentioned in my personal essay at the beginning of this semester in EL 150. I wrote a lot about the power of language:

I cherish each story [that I read] as a personal and private experience that is wholly my own ... When a friend of mine first suggested that I read Terry Goodkind's novel, Stone of Tears, I could not quite understand why she seemed so enthralled by it ... [But] I knew as soon as I finished it that I had stumbled upon "modern magic," in the form of literature ... nowadays I seek to become an author myself, because I want to learn how to use this magic, how to shape people's lives and emotions with the written word.

In Edson's play, she carefully alludes to this power through Vivian's voice.

For instance, in the flashback scene where Vivian is speaking to her father, she says that "The little bunnies in the picture are asleep ... because of soporific!" (43). This is important to note; the bunnies are not asleep because of the lettuce -- according to Vivian, it is because of the word, soporific. Immediately after that, Vivian comes back to the present time, and mentions that "The illustration had bore out the meaning of the word, just as he [her father] had explained it. At the time, it seemed like magic" (43).

This connects back to what I had written about in my personal essay: language has incredible power. All you have to do is say one word, and you can cause thousands of images and sensations to pass through someone's mind. Say "summer," and most folks can't help but think of beaches, oceans, heat, rain, ice cream, blue skies, vacation memories, or any number of other things.

Say a "more powerful" word -- like "insidious" -- and the effect is even greater. Dr. Kelekian does so in the play, causing Vivian to reflect upon the meaning of "insidious" that she can relate to the most: that relating to treachery (7-8). This is another aspect of the power of language; it can mean something different to everyone, and the meaning usually changes according to the experiences of the individual. The doctor in this scene only thinks of "insidious" as meaning "undetectable," while Vivian -- a John-Donne-poetry critic -- thinks immediately of a darker, more sinister meaning.


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Interesting how you focused on the literary element of this play rather than the themes within it. Most blogs, mine included, have entries about the feeling of death and dying as well as humor. Since I apparently have no soul and was not moved by this play at all (sad, I know. I guess I could be called sort of "cold" too, like Vivian), the examination of language is something new.

It is funny how one can pull out so many elements from just one small text. There are the themes and emotions expressed in the play but also the subtle ones including the sort of language used.

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