In the study of literature, an understanding of how language creates meaning is essential. One way that writers heighten or create meaning is through the use of literary allusions. In the play Wit, by Margaret Edson, a sustained allusion to the Holy Sonnets of John Donne enhances the work's meaning when it is personified through the depiction of the life and death of Vivian Bearing. Though Vivian finally reaches a deeper understanding of humanity, she does so at great expense. To make her spiritual journey she had to take the actual journey from life into death and whatever is beyond. Her evolution from an unsympathetic literary genius to finding her soul and her capacity to love is similar to the life of the man whose work she studied. Vivian was in all ways a scholar and respected intelligence and perception above all things. She was a woman of many talents, but all of them were not enough when forced to deal with her own mortality. On being informed she had cancer and that she "must be very tough" because the treatment was agonizing she quips, "It appears to be a matter, as the saying goes, of life and death. I know all about life and death. I am, after all, a scholar of Donne's Holy Sonnets, which explore mortality
" Truthfully, she didn't know anything about life or death and merely hid behind her intellect as did Donne. The environment of the hospital where Vivian is just another subject and no longer in control, as she had been all her life, causes her to alter her demeanor, she jokes, "Once I did the teaching, now I am taught." The physical illness makes her fragile and helpless. She can bear up to the treatment but can't convey the emotional confusion it causes. Intellect was always her strength, and turned out to be her limitation; as was Donne's. Near the end, Vivian needs Susie as more than just a nurse. Susie is the only person that has compassion and treats her like a human. Also, her old professor, E.M. Ashford visits reads her a child's story...
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