Redemption in Wit

In Margaret Edson’s Wit, Jason, Susie, and Professor Ashwood guide Vivian Bearing toward redemption, changing her into a person who can be both intellectual and compassionate. Jason’s cold intellectualism helps Vivian realize her own neglect of humanity; Susie’s compassion shows her how people should act; and Professor Ashwood, by embodying both intellect and compassion, brings Vivian full circle in her redemption so that she might die in peace.

Jason begins Vivian’s road to redemption by showing her the error of her ways. At the start of the play, Vivian strongly identifies with Jason because he represents research and “uncompromising scholarly standards” (15). Being a scholar herself, Vivian feels at home with the anatomization and dehumanization of research. Just as Jason anatomizes her as research, she picks apart John Donne’s “Holy Sonnets.” She focuses on Donne’s use of punctuation, pronunciation, and scansion like Jason focuses on her anatomy, both completely missing the “psychological depression” (39) of their subjects. After one morning’s “Grand Rounds” (36), Vivian begins to equate her situation with her scholarly studies, noting “they read me like a book. Once I did the teaching, now I am taught” (37). This...

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