EN 429 Studies in Performance Rotating Header Image

Cancer Unit Ending

Optimism is the central devise used in The Fault in Our Stars and can be seen throughout W;t. The viewer sees optimism as way of coping for some of the main characters in The Fault in Our Stars such as Gus and Hazel’s parents. When reading W;t, optimism can be seen through Dr. Kelekian and Jason because they have high hopes for this new experiment they are testing on Vivian. The main thing W;t and The Fault in Our Stars share is the fact that their protagonist lacks optimism. Vivian and Hazel both encounter people who are optimistic of their current state but they are not optimistic. These two works both deal with cancer and optimism but approach it in different ways due to different circumstances and different people they encounter.

In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel starts off as a pessimistic teenager who lets her cancer define who she is. She is aware that death is highly likely in her case. She lets the cancer consume her life. Her parents are optimistic that she will make it out alive because she has made it this far even when she could have died at thirteen. Their optimism does not bring her to an optimistic stand point. She then meets Gus, who shows her that there is more to life than just her cancer. He shows her the exciting parts of life she had been missing due to putting herself in isolation. In the end, when Gus has passed away, she has evolved into a new person. She is optimistic for her parents because she knows they can survive once she is gone. She also wants to carry on the legacy of Gus so that he can be remembered.

W;t starts off with Vivian recalling when she found out she has cancer. Dr. Kelekian encourages her to take the route of doing a full dose of chemotherapy to tackle her aggressive cancer. Dr. Kelekian shows optimism as he says, “This treatment is the strongest thing we have to offer you. And, as research, it will make a significant contribution to our knowledge” (Edson11). He is optimistic that this treatment will not only work for Vivian but go on to help further research for the cure to this specific cancer. As the play progresses, Susie is one character who tells Vivian the truth that her survival is not likely and what she is going through is more complicated than what it seems. Vivian decides against being full code because she does not want to “complicate the matter” (Edson 68). By the end of the play when Vivian dies and Jason tries to perform CPR and calls a team to revive her, Susie tells him no. He yells at Susie, that Vivian is research which is his only real reason for attempting to save her.

When reading The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde, she handles cancer in a different light then how Hazel and Vivian. She shows cancer as a battle she is going to conquer and overcome. She shows a realistic view because she is not a fictional character who is dealing with breast cancer. Lorde shows an optimistic view from the beginning to the end of her treatment. When comparing Vivian, Hazel and Lorde, she feels the sense of isolation. Lorde goes through isolation in her own community because there are not many black lesbian women who are dealing with cancer. In that moment of isolation, Lord does not lose her sense of optimism. As the journal continues she regains her sense of hopefulness. She says, “I am not supposed to exist. I carry death around in my body like a condemnation. But I do live” (Lorde 11). Vivian goes through an actual isolation where if someone was to come into contact with her then she would be at risk. Then Hazel puts herself in her own isolation because she does not want to be around people.

When looking at those who have cancer or being affected by someone going through cancer; there is no right or wrong way to react. Everyone is different and going to react to cancer in their own specific way. Optimism is usually thrown at those who have cancer as a coping device. But through reading different works like W;t and viewing The Fault in Our Stars, it is not an option that someone must take. In W;t, Vivian was not exactly optimistic or pessimistic. She just avoided her cancer through her poetry. Every time she would enter chemotherapy, she would think back to Donne and his holy sonnets. The Fault in Our Stars showed that people can change your views on the world. Hazel evolved as a character to someone who is more optimistic and overall happy. There is not one right way to handle cancer.


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.

The Fault in Our Stars. Dir. Josh Boone. Amazon Instant Video, 2014. DVD.

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