One theme of the play W;t is the illusion—and ultimate lack—of control a person has over disease and death. Playwright Margaret Edson illustrates this theme through protagonist Vivian’s diminishing narration of the play’s action. A highly respected English professor, Dr. Vivian Bearing exerts much control over interpretations of poetry, her students, and—until she becomes stricken with stage 4 ovarian cancer—the trajectory of her life. Edson gradually shifts the view of the play’s action from Vivian’s point of view to a removed third-person point of view; as her illness progresses, Vivian becomes less of an agent and more of a powerless participant in the play’s action. Audiences begin the play by seeing and hearing everything filtered through Vivian but end up as bystanders at the end.
Vivian’s first-person narration dominates the opening and early scenes. In scene 1, she speaks assertively with Dr. Kelekian about her cancer diagnosis. She describes herself as “an
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