EN 429 Studies in Performance Rotating Header Image

January, 2015:

Reading Response 1

The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde and W;t by Margaret Edson are two novels that both deal with  the topic of cancer. They have similarities and differences but are separated by the end of the novel. They both address cancer with a serious tone and are aware that death could be a possible outcome. They are also both emerged in literature and use it as a way of dealing with their own treatments. By analyzing each novel, the tone will be discussed and it will show how each novel are unconnected.

In the Cancer Journals, Lorde is at a point where remission could be a possible outcome for her journey. She has had a mastectomy and is still on going with treatments of chemotherapy. All throughout her journal, she feels a sense of hope to overcome cancer and the obstacles it throws at her. Issues that arise during her journey are letting cancer consume her life, which she does not want to happen. She makes an honest attempt to keep a positive outlook on her life. She uses this journal to talk about her experience and to keep her driving to remission. Even when her days are filled with anguish, she still wants to obtain the positivity that this experience brings. She says, “Spring comes, and still I feel despair like a pale cloud waiting to consume me, engulf me like another cancer, swallow me into immobility… I need to remind myself of the joy, the lightness, the laughter so vital to my living and my health” (Lorde 10). By her keeping an encouraging spirit, the audience may look at this to be an uplifting piece of work. She shows that she is still human and has days that are difficult but she does not give up. She fights for her life every second. Her key points are find faith to keep living and embrace the changes because once someone goes through something as traumatic, they will never be the same person again.

W;t by Margaret Edson shows a portrayal of a fictional character named  Dr. Vivian Bearing who before finding out she had cancer, was engulfed in her work as a professor of literature. While she is in the hospital, there are constant reminders of her work such as her former student who is now her doctor. While undergoing her treatment, she uses Metaphysical Poetry by John Donne as a way of avoiding her cancer. Anytime she enters treatment, she goes into a deep state of reciting the poems or a moment when she was teaching the holy sonnets to her class. Dr. Bearing cannot seem to get away from her work and address her cancer. She also deals with a sense of how to deal with something that is not in her control. She tries to control the situation she gets in with doctors but they are treating her as just another patient. During the novel, she does not seem to grasp a sense of hope. When in isolation, she has become pessimistic about her treatment option. She says, “I am not in isolation because I have cancer, because I have a tumor the size of a grapefruit. No. I am in isolation because I am being treated for cancer. My treatment imperils my health” (Edson 47).  Some key points that are seen in the novel is that one can only fight for so long and that giving up is a feasible option.

The differences between the Lorde and Bearing are concrete when reading both works. There stages of cancer are both different which can be a contributing factor in the way they both look at cancer. Lorde has a greater chance of survival which can lead to her reason for her positive outlook on what is happening to her. Bearing is tackling an aggressive cancer that is in its final stages. She knows that her chance of making it out is significantly low and that her treatment is experimental, so the outcome may not be good. So when the nurse asks her if she wants to be revived, she declines. We see towards the end of the introduction for Cancer Journals, that Lorde has entered remission. By the end of W;t, Dr. Bearing has died. Both end on a different note and leave a different tone. W;t leaves the audience feeling a sense of sadness but also peace because she no longer has to go through treatment. The Cancer Journal leaves the audience with a feeling of success because she has overcome her battle with cancer. She had a powerful outlook and it payed off. Both novels, ending separately but showing that each battle with cancer is not the same.


Work Cited:

 Edson, Margaret. W;t. London: Nick Hern. 1999. Print.

Lorde, Audre. “Introduction.” The Cancer Journals. Argyle, NY: Spinsters, Ink 1980. 7-15. Print.

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