Vivian Bearing, a brilliant and uncompromising professor of English Literature who has spent years specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, has been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. She agrees to undergo an experimental chemotherapy treatment that, although not guaranteed to save her, will provide excellent research data for the future of oncology. Once the teacher, she is now the student, learning everything she can about the disease and constantly at the mercy of the doctors in authority. Over the course of her treatment, she begins to seek the warmth and care that, in her quest for excellence, she denied her students during her many years of teaching. Professor Bearing valiantly braves all eight rounds of the chemotherapy, but is told the tumor has not been completely dispelled, and there is nothing else that can be done. Through the agony of dying from a terminal illness, she learns a lesson of compassion; at her darkest hour she is shown mercy from her nurse, Susie Monahan, and her mentor, Professor E.M. Ashford. In a final acceptance of her fate, Professor Bearing institutes a Do Not Resuscitate order, finally succumbing to death, which she has studied so fastidiously in the teaching of Donne’s work. Wit is a poignant and humorous look at life, death, poetry, and compassion.
Wit guide sections