Wit

by

Margaret Edson

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Harvey Kelekian, M.D. Character Analysis

A fifty-year-old chief of medical oncology at the University Hospital. He oversees Vivian’s care as well as Jason’s medical fellowship. He and Vivian share a similar unrelenting work ethic and passion for knowledge, as well as a similar bemusement at the difficulties of teaching undergraduates. Like Vivian, Dr. Kelekian is a top-tier professional, and the two of them initially bond over their shared values of thoroughness, research, and hard work. However, as Vivian’s treatment progresses and she begins to suffer from the side effects of the experimental drug trial in which Dr. Kelekian has enrolled her, she begins to doubt their shared values, since Dr. Kelekian’s prioritizing his own research goals over her comfort is making her feel less than human. The actor who plays Dr. Kelekian also plays Mr. Bearing, Vivian’s father, in one of the play’s flashbacks, which emphasizes Vivian and Dr. Kelekian’s likeness and suggests that Vivian’s prioritization of intellectual rigor over emotion and human connection might have been caused by her father’s influence.

Harvey Kelekian, M.D. Quotes in Wit

The Wit quotes below are all either spoken by Harvey Kelekian, M.D. or refer to Harvey Kelekian, M.D. . 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

VIVIAN: (Hesitantly) I should have asked more questions, because I know there’s going to be a test.

I have cancer, insidious cancer, with pernicious side effects—no, the treatment has pernicious side effects.

I have stage-four metastatic ovarian cancer. There is no stage five. Oh, and I have to be very tough. It appears to be a matter, as the saying goes, of life and death.

I know all about life and death. I am, after all, a scholar of Donne’s Holy Sonnets, which explore mortality in greater depth than any other body of work in the English language.

And I know for a fact that I am tough. A demanding professor. Uncompromising. Never one to turn from a challenge. That is why I chose, while a student of the great E. M. Ashford, to study Donne.

Related Characters: Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. (speaker), Harvey Kelekian, M.D.
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 9 Quotes

In everything I have done, I have been steadfast, resolute—some would say in the extreme. Now, as you can see, I am distinguishing myself in illness.

I have survived eight treatments of Hexamethophosphacil and Vinplatin at the full dose, ladies and gentlemen. I have broken the record. I have become something of a celebrity. Kelekian and Jason are simply delighted. I think they foresee celebrity status for themselves upon the appearance of the journal article they will no doubt write about me.

But I flatter myself. The article will not be about me, it will be about my ovaries. It will be about my periotoneal cavity, which, despite their best intentions, is now crawling with cancer.

What we have come to think of as me is, in fact, just the specimen jar, just the dust jacket, just the white piece of paper that bears the little black marks.

Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 16 Quotes

SUSIE: (Pushing them away from the bed) Patient is no code. Get away from her!

(SUSIE lifts the blanket. VIVIAN steps out of the bed.

CODE TEAM HEAD: (Reading) Do Not Resuscitate. Kelekian. Shit.

She walks away from the scene, toward a little light.

(The CODE TEAM stops working.)

She is now attentive and eager, moving slowly toward the light.

JASON: (Whispering) Oh, God.

She takes off her cap and lets it drop.

CODE TEAM HEAD: Order was put in yesterday.

She slips off her bracelet.

CODE TEAM: —It’s a doctor fuck-up.

—What is he, a resident?

—Got us up here on a DNR.

—Called a code on a no-code.

She loosens the ties and the top gown slides to the floor. She lets the second gown fall.

The instant she is naked, and beautiful, reaching for the light—

JASON: Oh, God.

Lights out.)

(The bedside scene fades.)

Page Number: 84-85
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Wit LitChart as a printable PDF.
Wit PDF

Harvey Kelekian, M.D. Character Timeline in Wit

The timeline below shows where the character Harvey Kelekian, M.D. 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
...saying that the moment was unforgettable. At his desk in the hospital office, Dr. Harvey Kelekian, a fellow professor and her head oncologist (cancer doctor), is explaining that she has stage-four... (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
Dr. Kelekian asks if he should continue, and he uses complicated medical language to describe the experimental... (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
Though Vivian tries to focus on what Kelekian is saying, she continues drifting into ruminations on the specific words he uses. However, when... (full context)
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
When Dr. Kelekian is finished speaking, Vivian commends him on his thoroughness, which leads them to discussing their... (full context)
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Dr. Kelekian suggests that Vivian not teach next semester due to the severity of her diagnosis and... (full context)
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Dr. Kelekian asks Vivian if there is anyone that he should call—a friend or family member who... (full context)
Scene 3
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
...her—he wanted to know who her primary doctor at the hospital was. She gives Dr. Kelekian’s name, and then explains that she herself is a doctor of philosophy. (full context)
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
...Vivian sit on the exam table, and Jason Posner, a young medical fellow under Dr. Kelekian, enters. He introduces himself, calling Vivian “Professor Bearing,” and says that as an undergraduate he... (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
...nervous, starts to ask Vivian some questions about her medical history. Vivian notes that Dr. Kelekian already did this, but Jason says that Kelekian wanted him to do it, too. He... (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
...she visited her gynecologist, who sent her to another specialist, who sent her to Dr. Kelekian. (full context)
Scene 5
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Vivian then introduces the scene—a Friday morning, “Grand Rounds”—and says “Action.” Dr. Kelekian, Jason, and four other clinical fellows enter. Jason asks Vivian how she’s feeling, and she... (full context)
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
As Jason finishes his description, Vivian remarks to herself, “excellent command of details.” Dr. Kelekian then gives Jason this same compliment, and starts to ask the fellows questions about Vivian’s... (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
The questioning over, the fellows leave, but Kelekian stops Jason and reminds him, “Clinical.” Jason then thanks Vivian, and then he and Kelekian... (full context)
Scene 7
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Susie gives Jason the stats on Vivian’s vitals, and suggests that Kelekian should lower the dose for the next cycle of chemo. Jason dismisses this, saying that... (full context)
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
After a while Kelekian and Jason enter, both of them with surgical masks. Kelekian talks to Vivian, and says... (full context)
Scene 12
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
...her. If her heart stops, Vivian says, “let it stop.” Susie, surprised, says she’ll tell Kelekian this. As she goes to leave, Vivian asks Susie if she’ll still take care of... (full context)
Scene 13
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Susie enters, and says she’s paged Kelekian. Kelekian enters, and Susie says they need to give Vivian “Patient-Controlled Analgesic”—a pump so that... (full context)
Poetry and the Limitations of Language Theme Icon
Kindness and Mortality Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
Kelekian orders a morphine drip, going against Susie’s suggestion of Patient-Controlled medication. He tells Vivian they’re... (full context)
Scene 16
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
...“She’s Research!” Susie grabs Jason and throws him off the bed, saying that he saw Kelekian put in the order for Vivian to be DNR. (full context)
Rationality and Intellect vs. Emotion and Human Connection Theme Icon
Empathy vs. Professional Detachment Theme Icon
Wit, Death, and Meaning Theme Icon
...“Who the hell are you?” and demands to see Vivian’s chart, and they realize that Kelekian indeed put in an order that she was no code. They discuss how this was... (full context)