Wit

by

Margaret Edson

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E. M. Ashford, D. Phil. Character Analysis

An eighty-year-old, now-retired professor of English literature who was Vivian’s mentor in graduate school. E. M. inspired Vivian to pursue the study of John Donne’s poetry and fostered her unrelenting work ethic. She always pushed her to do the most thorough work possible, which turned Vivian into the scholar that she is. At the same time, she encouraged Vivian to go outside and spend time with friends—advice Vivian ignored. The audience meets E. M. in a flashback near the beginning of the play and again at the end, when E. M. visits a mostly non-responsive Vivian in the hospital and reads a children’s book aloud to her.

E. M. Ashford, D. Phil. Quotes in Wit

The Wit quotes below are all either spoken by E. M. Ashford, D. Phil. or refer to E. M. Ashford, D. Phil. . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Wit published in 1999.
Scene 2 Quotes

[E. M.]: Nothing but a breath—a comma—separates life from life everlasting. It is very simple really. With the original punctuation restored, death is no longer something to act out on a stage, with exclamation points… Life, death. Soul, God. Past, present. Not insuperable barriers, not semicolons, just a comma.

VIVIAN: Life, death…I see. (Standing) It’s a metaphysical conceit. It’s wit! I’ll go back to the library and rewrite the paper—

E. M.: (Standing emphatically) It is not wit, Miss Bearing. It is truth. (Walking around the desk to her) The paper’s not the point.

VIVIAN: It isn’t?

E. M.: (Tenderly) Vivian. You’re a bright young woman. Use your intelligence. Don’t go back to the library. Go out. Enjoy yourself with your friends. Hmm?

Related Characters: Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. (speaker), E. M. Ashford, D. Phil. (speaker)
Page Number: 14-15
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Wit LitChart as a printable PDF.
Wit PDF

E. M. Ashford, D. Phil. Character Timeline in Wit

The timeline below shows where the character E. M. Ashford, D. Phil. appears in Wit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 2
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
...audience into another flashback, in which she is a twenty-two-year-old graduate student approaching her mentor, Professor E. M. Ashford , who is fifty-two at the time. E. M. tells Vivian that she needs to... (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
E. M. explains that the incorrect punctuation puts too much of a barrier between Donne’s analysis of... (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
Before Vivian leaves, E. M. suggests to her that she should go out with her friends instead of going back... (full context)
Scene 3
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
...specializes in John Donne’s sonnets, that she served as a research assistant for the renowned Dr. E. M. Ashford as a graduate student, and that she wrote an “exhaustive” book of essays about Donne... (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
...an essay about the sonnet “Death be not proud,” the same sonnet that she and E. M. Ashford discussed in the grad school flashback. (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
...Jason finally reenters with Susie, just after Vivian recites the line she had discussed with E.M. in her flashback: “And death shall be no more—comma—Death thou shalt die.” (full context)
Scene 13
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
...lines” in the play. She then quotes Donne about death again, using the melodramatic punctuation E. M. Ashford had criticized in her earlier flashback. But Vivian “sees that the line doesn’t work,” and... (full context)
Scene 16
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Professor E. M. Ashford , who is now 80 years old, enters Vivian’s hospital room. Vivian wakes up, confused,... (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
E. M. offers to recite some Donne, but Vivian moans “nooooooo.” E. M. then takes a children’s... (full context)