Edson does a fantastic job of making the process of death human and almost tangible by allowing Vivian to be studied and scrutinized by the doctors and then one step further, by the readers of the play.
A proud, strong woman, dying, exposed in nearly every way a person can be exposed, and it’s the readers alone who are privy to Vivian’s most naked moments for example, “I am being treated for cancer. My treatment imperils my health.” Alas we’ve come to a place of isolation. Vivian is literally in isolation for part of her treatment and this is also the first time in the book that John Donne has failed her, “Herein lies the paradox. John Donne would revel in it. I would revel in it if we wrote a poem about it.” Earlier on in the play we see Vivian reciting passages of Donne’s poetry to get her through confronting death and to quell her fear of the initial doses of her treatment plan. Now the treatment has reached a point of isolation, where if it’s not worse than death, it is certainly lonelier, for Donne has no poetry about treatment imperiling health. Edson is able to craft a most fulfilled depiction of what isolation is from multiple angles. Death is on the other side of this isolation, however death at least has poetry. Cancer treatment methods do not.