Identify another example of foreshadowing in the play.After watching Wit (available on Amazon or on DVD), and reading the sections of Essential Literary Terms referred to below, answer the following question

Dramatic Conventions:

Since Wit is an adaptation of the play of the same name by Margaret Edson, many of the dramatic conventions from the stage have remained: soliloquy, metafiction, minimal sets, and small cast of characters.

Be sure to read the section on Dialogue in Essential Literary Terms, pp. 144 – 156

1. Are Vivian’s opening lines an example of repartee, a soliloquy, or an aside? Explain your answer.

2. Point out an example of repartee in the play. What makes it repartee?

3. Point out an example of an aside, and explain its purpose in the play.

Metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work’s status as an artifact. One way to accomplish this is for a character to acknowledge s/he is a character. On multiple occasions Vivian pointedly acknowledges that she is within a play. She tells the audience her motivation, reasoning, and future events. She also has minor control over the order in which they proceed.

3. What is the effect of her directness? How does this make us feel for the character?

We see an example of foreshadowing when Vivian says, “I’m waiting for the moment when someone asks me this question and I’ll be dead.” Foreshadowing is a hint of events to come, usually a small action that later is replicated on a grander scale. (To be clear, the diagnosis at the beginning of the film was also a clear example of foreshadowing for anyone in the medical profession.) Anton Chekhov argued that everything in a play should be necessary, so therefore everything becomes foreshadowing. “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” Most films do not follow this literally, but if something is brought into the camera’s focus (and it’s not product placement) then it will be significant to the plot later.

4. Identify another example of foreshadowing in the play.

The Lesson in Empathy

A repeating message within the play and film is the confusion, humiliation, and plain awkwardness of the modern medical system. The patient receives animosity for medical professional’s inconveniences for which she has no control. She is asked questions that seem absurd. She is treated as an object with little or no freedom over the course of her treatment, etc.

5. Does this seem representative of the actual practice or is this exaggerated for effect? Explain.

6. Does this reveal a reality that many people believe exists and felt they have experienced? Explain.

Main characters:

Read the sections on Characterization and Roles in the Plot in Essential Literary Terms, pp. 136-144.

When discussing characters, one difference between film and television is that the characters in film tend to be more complex. The main reason for this is a film is usually a complete work where individual episodes are only a small portion of the larger work which is usually never completed. We, the audience, expect the main characters to develop in a film. In a television show, we usually want them to stay close to the same or at least change slowly.

Eileen Atkins as Evelyn Ashford, Ph.D. — Vivian’s former mentor

7. Is Dr. Ashford a flat character or a round character? How about Vivian? Explain your answers.

8. How do you see her purpose/role in the play? Is she an antagonist or a foil? Explain the difference between the two, and your answer.

9. Think back to our discussion of archetypes. What archetype is Professor Ashford? Explain.

10. In the scene with Dr. Ashford, what archetype is Vivian? Explain.

Harold Pinter as Mr. Bearing — Vivian’s father

11. What is the function of the flashback to the scene with Vivian and her father?

12. How would you describe their relationship? Is he an antagonist? Or is he a foil? Explain.

13. What archetype is Mr. Bearing? What actions of his support this?

Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Harvey Kelekian — the head physician

The opening scene is beautifully set with alternate shots focused on the faces of Vivian and then Dr. Kelekian as Dr. Kelekian explains the diagnosis and treatment. Notice that Vivian is looking up slightly with a dark background while Dr. Kelekian is looking down with a bright background.

14. How does this establish the relationship between Vivian and Dr. Kelekian?

15. Read the section on Diction in Essential Literary Terms, pp. 74-81 (particularly look at those sections discussing the difference between formal diction and colloquial diction). What kind of diction does Dr. Kelekian use in describing his diagnosis? How is Dr. Kelekian’s diction when describing the diagnosis and treatment another sign of their relationship?

16. What is Dr. Kelekian’s role in the play? Is he an antagonist? A foil? Explain.

17. Is Dr. Kelekian a flat character or a round character? What is the effect of this role in the play and on the audience?

18. What archetype is Dr. Kelekian? What actions of his support this?

Audra McDonald as Susie Monahan, R.N. — the nurse

19. What archetype is Susie Monahan? What actions of hers support this?

20. What is her role in the play? Is she an antagonist or a foil to Vivian? Explain your answer.

Jonathan M. Woodward as Dr. Jason Posner — the fellow

21. Is Dr. Posner a round character or a flat character? Explain your answer.

22. What does the dialogue and characterization of Dr. Posner reveals about his attitude towards Vivian?