Vivian addresses the audience, saying that “in this dramatic structure you will see the most interesting aspects” of her treatment and stay at the hospital, but that the vast majority of her time is spent simply lying there in silence. She says if she were writing the scene, she would lie there for fifteen minutes and make the audience sit and watch. But she reassures the audience that she won’t, since “brevity is the soul of wit.”
Vivian again acts as a narrator detached from her character-self. She quotes Shakespeare’s Hamlet on wit, retaining her cleverness and love of literature even as her situation worsens. At the same time, her complaints about boredom might suggest that she does indeed wish she had some visitors.
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 responds with “Fine.” Jason then gives Vivian a pelvic exam, describing her cancer and treatment aloud to the other fellows. As he continues his monologue (which is full of medical jargon), Vivian comments to herself on the term “Grand Rounds,” and how the practice is similar to a graduate seminar in literature, except now she is the one being read like a book.
“Grand rounds” is a teaching practice of examining a patient and presenting questions about their treatment to an accompanying audience of students (in this case, the clinical fellows). While it can be very useful, it also has the potential to be dehumanizing for the patient if they are present and conscious, as in Vivian’s case here. Once again Vivian focuses on details of language to escape her uncomfortable situation.
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 treatment. Jason always answers first, and the other fellows “resent him.” They discuss Vivian’s side effects, and when the fellows fail to answer one of Kelekian’s questions he commiserates with Vivian about the inadequacies of students. Vivian is “delighted” to be addressed thus.
Vivian and Kelekian echoing each other’s statements reinforces their similarities (for example, they both love details and thoroughness), but their situations are now very different. Kelekian is praising Jason abstractly, while for Vivian Jason’s competency is a matter of her own health. Also note how “delighted” Vivian is to actually be addressed as a human being, and even a colleague, by Kelekian. She is starting to feel the strain of being treated solely as a research object.
The questioning over, the fellows leave, but Kelekian stops Jason and reminds him, “Clinical.” Jason then thanks Vivian, and then he and Kelekian leave her “with her stomach uncovered.” Vivian gets up and muses on the detailed examinations she receives, and the cycles of her treatment. She says she has been looking up the medical terms the doctors use, because she has always treated words “with respect.” She then recalls the exact hour that she “knew words would be [her] life’s work.”
Jason continually has to remind himself or be reminded by others with the word “clinical” (meaning clinical skills, including bedside manner), and it is only then that he actually addresses Vivian and interacts with her as a human being—although even then usually only with the detached “how are you feeling?” Vivian is still trying to maintain a sense of control in her situation by focusing on language: her comfort zone and area of expertise.