Two of the performance pieces discussed in depth throughout this unit were the play W;t by Margaret Edson and the movie The Fault In Our Stars. These two pieces shared a strong disconnect, one being associated with punishment and the other underlined a personal fate. Throughout each, the characters resembled the negative and positive sides of cancer and thus continued to transform with the disease running through their bodies.
Vivian, the main characters in W;t, was faced with the taunting disease of cancer related to a punishment. Vivian went throughout the play with having no feelings, no friendly connections of visits while in this hospital, constantly was wrapped up in her work, flashback of choosing learning over experiencing, no compassion for her students, and overall lead a lonely life with no companionship and nonetheless sex. All these negative influences in her life could have resulted as cancer being a way of punishment on her body and soul.
Jacqueline Vanhoutte, the writer of “Cancer and the Common Women in Margaret Edson’s W;t”, provides a number of examples that can relate to the punishment of cancer that was put on Vivian’s body. For instance, “she believed that being extremely smart would take care of it but she has been found out by cancer” (Vanhoutte, 396). This piece of information underlines how Vivian, being so mart, thinks she can outwit anything and or anyone but she has finally met her match, cancer. Cancer being the one thing between Vivian and success, is now her ending punishment, or in her eyes, her lack of understanding. The love of her work was so important “she reveals she started noticing in her body…a sharp pain four months prior” (Vanhoutte, 399). Vivian’s work was so important that even when her body was not feeling well, and in this case carrying a deadly disease, she continued without being checked. One last example, “Vivian’s procreative organs are taking their revenge for a lifetime of neglect”(Vanhoutte, 400). Vivian being so deeply consumed by her work led to her having no life, no companion, no time of experimenting, which makes it ironic that her cancer is associated with ovarian…something that was never given a chance to make life or see excitement.
Punishment being one thing, but fate seemed to be another cause of cancer. In the movie The Fault In Our Stars, Hazel (the main character) lived on to accomplish a life she never thought possible, her fate. Hazel almost died early on in her life, but for some reason she lived through. Throughout the movie Hazel is faced with many difficult tasks but on the bright side she finds her true love, she was finally able to experience “firsts”, found someone who understood her because he too was a cancer patient, and overall she never gave up. Being able to fight through the inevitable, Hazel seemed to be finally rewarded. Hazel met her true love August and was able to experience the life she never thought possible. Her cancer in this case, leads to many positives in her life.
Julie Deardorff, the writer of “ Optimism can help, hinder patients”, strikes an amazing discovery that can be related to Hazel’s experience and her thrive to live on. Within the article there is a part where a women facing stage four breast cancer is told by 2 out of her three doctors that she has 6 months to live. She takes her third doctors advice and continues fighting, “ I have no doubt we can get you six months, the real goal is can we get you past five years?” ( Deardorff, 4). This piece of conversation highlights the fire within the women to continue on, to face another day. This fire is also built within Hazel and also within her lover Augustus. Having found each other, two individuals with severe life threatening diseases, they finally have a concrete reason to fight…for each other. One other example that can be related to Hazel fate is within the Cancer Journals, which was written by Audre Lorde. In this journal Audre is explaining her fight with breast cancer and her disconnect from the society she thought she was once apart of. However, Audre began to find the people who meant and cared for her, other survivors/fighters. “Living for the women” (Lorde, 8), which is exactly what Audre did. This sense of connection can be found within the movie when Hazel goes to group meetings and finds Augustus and a few other companions. This group makes her feel whole, like a real person who can enjoy regular life experiences. Overall the connection and fire within drives her task to fight, which is why her fate is so sweet and worth it.
Overall these two performances land on opposite sides of the scale. Punishment Vs. Fate, Negative Vs. Positive, Death Vs. Life. Vivian puts her work before herself whereas Hazel puts herself aside and lets others into her life to help shape and brighten the darkness. Cancer is a scary and painful disease but in reality the ending to it is the same, death. But the ending to a normal life is also death. The way to live out the time is to experience and to live in the moment. To travel, find love, connect, etc. By putting yourself second, with or without a disease, you will never be happy. The point of life is to take the punches and keep moving.
- Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. Argyle, NY: Spinsters, Ink, 1980. 1-15.Print.
- Edson, Margaret. W;t. New York: Faber and Faber, Inc., 1999. Print.
- Deardorff, Julie.”Optimism Can Help, Hinder Patients.” Chicago Tribune. 23 Sept 2010. Chicagotribune.com. Web.
- Vanhoutte, Jacqueline. “Cancer and the Common Woman in Margaret Edson’s W;t.” Comparative Drama 36 (Fall 2002/2003): 391-410.
- The Fault In Our Stars. Dir. Josh Boone. Perf. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. 20th Century Fox, 2014. DVD.