Girl, Interrupted Character Analysis

Crazy, but normal, Susanna Kaysen, an eighteen-year-old in April of 1967, was forced to stay at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric resident facility in Massachusetts, after attempting suicide by overdosing on pills. A doctor who interviewed her for twenty minutes forcefully advocates her to a commitment into a mental hospital. She was thought to be in the facility for only two weeks, but instead, she ended up staying for two years after making new friends and agreeing with herself that she should stay and get cured.

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She soon got diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a mental illness that is characterized by the ongoing patterns of an emotional reaction and unstable relationships. 

Kaysen tells the story of her experiences, and the people she met at McLean. Among the people she met, she describes Polly has a girl who was kind but was an inconsolable patient who, before getting into the hospital, poured gasoline on her body, and decided to set herself on fire. After a year of being at the hospital, Polly became a calm yet cheerful girl. But one day, Polly becomes aware of her injuries that causes her to have a mental breakdown amongst it. Kaysen understands that the patients are surrounded by the thought of being insane, but Polly is a patient who is trapped by her consequences of her illness, forever.

Lisa, another patient who is diagnosed as a sociopath. Lisa escapes from the hospital but gets caught two days later because she has no place to go and lacks money. 

Although, she puts up a fight with the nurses, she is usually calm about being in the hospital with the rest of the patients.

Lisa ensures that the patients in her ward are uninterrupted because she likes to contempt to hospital authorities. Georgina, Kaysen’s roommate, struggles to prolong a relationship with her violent boyfriend, who comes from a different ward to tell anomalous stories of his father’s act with the CIA. Obsession over laxatives and chicken, cooked by her father weekly, Daisy was a patient who spent her Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays every year at the hospital. Daisy get released from the hospital to go stay in her apartment, her father bought her, but ends up committing suicide on her birthday, which devastated her fellow friends back at the hospital.

A new patient, Lisa Cody, arrives and is diagnosed as a sociopath. Lisa Rowe becomes friends with the new Lisa but feels threatened by her because she feels as if her leadership will be soon taken away from her. Later, Lisa Rowe decided to manipulate her and talk her into running away.

James Watson, family Nobel-Prize winning friend, comes to visit her at the hospital and offers to help her escape from the hospital, but instead Kaysen decided to stay and recover from her illness. She recalls her suicide attempt by looking at the preparation and assurance needed for a successful and planned murder scene. She gives the readers her perception of reality when things are not what they seem to be.

She explains to illusion she sees when looking at the different colors and patterns of the tile floor in the ice cream parlor. Kaysen states, The floor meant Yes, No, This, That, Up, Down, Day, Night- all the indecisions and opposites that were bad enough in life without having them spelled out for you on the floor. (Kindle Book, pg.550). 

The hospital has rules that every patient has to abide by. Nurses do checks to manage the patient’s activities and whereabouts, according to a schedule that relates to how severe their illnesses are.

Some patients have some privileges such as ground, TV room, or even ward privileges. For example, Kaysen has ground, ward, television room privileges, but Lisa has only television room privileges. Nurses also confiscate items that could injure themselves or others, such as jewelry or some clothing that could be used for hanging. Field trips outside the hospital, such as the ice cream parlor, are uncommon and requires a group of nurses to assist. Kaysen continues to reflect on her illness and how it starts to affect her mind.

She starts to undergo depersonalization, which is disorder where one can start to believe that her bones are no longer connected to her body. During a trip to the dentist, Susanna had an abscess tooth removed.

When she awoke from the anesthesia, she falls into a panic attack and loses track of time.

The panic attack caused her to believe that her illness was worse than was she was diagnosed with. She decided to take her medicine that had been prescribed to her by her dentist and the nurses and started doing therapy sessions with Dr. Melvin, Kaysen’s therapist. Kaysen comes to find out that she was Melvin’s first patient to do an advanced analysis on.

After a certain amount of sessions, the more Kaysen confessed about her feelings about herself, Melvin decided it was time for Kaysen to be released from McLean hospital. 

The last couple of days Kaysen was in the hospital, she started to apply for jobs in the area. She understands that each application that she applies to such as a job, driver’s license, and an apartment requires a medical history to be assure that she is clear of any illnesses or disorder. Kaysen declined some of the symptoms that were asked on some of the applications. Kaysen continues a relationship with a man, whom she knew before entering the hospital, and accepts his marriage proposal. She reveals her diagnoses: borderline personality disorder and discovers that it is most common in women than men.

She also reflects the contrast between the brain and the mind. Kaysen wonders why the doctors only decides to treat one rather than the other or even both. Some years after being release, Kaysen runs into Georgina who is married, and the healthiest patient that got released. She also runs into Lisa, who is surprisingly a sane single mother and lives in a descent suburb. 

Kaysen shows the origin title of her book as a sub header: Girl Interrupted.

After little over twenty years, she arrives at a painting in front of New York’s Frick Museum. She states, Interrupted at her music: as my life had been, interrupted in the music of being seventeen, as her life had been, snatched and fixed on canvas… (Kindle Book, pg. 1755). This statement shows that Kaysen’s life was interrupted by her mental illness that had been hidden from her for seventeen years but was soon discovered after she decided to show her true colors by attempting suicide. How does this book ties in with things we discussed in class? Psychology is the study of the human brain and how it processes certain behaviors.

This book/movie gives the readers a look at the different disorders that has been diagnosed to certain patients who is interviewed by a psychiatrist before entering.

Different disorders such as sociopaths, borderline personality disorder, depression, anorexia nervosa, and addiction are all associated with each patient that was introduced in the book. One girl that was not mentioned in the summary was Janet, the girl who had been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.

Anorexia nervosa is where a patient decides to starve him or herself because they have a low self-esteem. The nurses in the hospital pass around drugs such as barbiturates, which is a drug that helps the central nervous system calm down and help the patients sleep. Getting interviewed by Melvin, Kaysen over hears that her disorder could be genetic, which upsets Kaysen’s mother. Either genetic or not, the disorder falls under the topic of nature vs nurture.

This lets the readers know that her mental disorder could be the cause of parent’s genes or due to her surroundings at home.

In the movie, modeling has been used between the characters Lisa Rowe and Kaysen. Modeling is where one visualizes what one does and copies that person’s actions. For example, Lisa introduced herself to Kaysen by asking to bum a cigarette from her and blows smoke into an old lady who was as still as a statue. When Lisa had to rush off to an appointment, Kaysen decided to blow smoke in the same woman’s face but ends up getting called an asshole. Reading and watching this experience, I have discovered the psychological impact that psychology has on our everyday lives and how it effects the way people think of us.

This was a great book and I was glad I got to read about Susanna Kaysen’s mental illness and her experience in the hospital.

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Girl, Interrupted Character Analysis. (2019, Aug 05). Retrieved February 3, 2023 , from

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