Vivian stands and removes her IV, “as if conjuring a scene.” She starts to deliver a lecture on John Donne and his wit. In his Holy Sonnets, Vivian says, Donne used his wit to wrestle with the largest issues of humanity: “life, death, and God.” This was essentially an exercise in “ingenuity, virtuosity, and a vigorous intellect” that never came to any real conclusions.
Vivian’s escapism becomes more extreme here, as in her total isolation she lets herself slip into a fantasy of her past self: healthy, brilliant, and in control. At the same time, the subject of her “lecture” applies to her current situation—Donne’s wrestling with mortality and coming to no satisfying conclusions, but finding pleasure in the struggle itself.
A screen lowers behind her, and on it is projected Donne’s sonnet “If poysonous mineralls.” Vivian reads the sonnet aloud, and then discusses it. In her analysis, the speaker of the poem finds God’s forgiveness “hard to believe,” so he wants to hide from God. With his rhetorical questions and wit, the speaker essentially “turns eternal damnation into an intellectual game.” Vivian continues her lecture, saying of the poem’s end: “We are left to our own consciences. Have we outwitted Donne? Or have we been outwitted?”
Vivian suggests that Donne, finding no answers to his questions, contents himself with games of wit, language, and intellect. It’s then implied that Vivian herself has done this as well—but in her current desperate state, she is forced to contend with the reality of death, and can no longer hide behind wit or intelligence.
Susie comes in, interrupting Vivian to say that the doctors want her to have another ultrasound. Vivian resists, saying “not now,” but Susie insists that it must be done. Vivian says she is “in the middle of—this” right now, finally declaring “I do not want to go now!” Eventually Vivian admits defeat, though, and walks away from the poem, hooks herself back to her IV, and lets a technician wheel her away.
Vivian is feeling increasingly helpless and afraid, and wants to linger in her fantasy of abstractions and analysis for as long as she can. Notably, she also seems childish in this exchange, as she slowly loses her façade of detachment, superiority, and “toughness” over the course of her ordeal.