Search Menu

Girl, Interrupted

Susanna Kaysen


Susanna Kaysen

Susanna Kaysen

Susanna Kaysen

Susanna Kaysen

Susana Kaysen is eighteen years old at the beginning of her memoir. She is a bright but troubled teenager with a surprising breadth of life experience. At this age, Kaysen has already abandoned school, had an affair with her high school English teacher, and half-heartedly attempted suicide. During a fateful consultation with the doctor who will usher her into nearly two years of hospitalization, Kaysen’s overriding emotion is exhaustion. She signs herself into McLean Hospital with a sense, at least initially, of relief.

Kaysen narrates Girl, Interrupted in a cool, dispassionate voice, sketching the characters and scenes that illustrate life in a mental hospital for the affluent in the late 1960s. The nearly emotionless narration reflects both the detachment Kaysen feels from life as an adolescent, and a desire to leave certain conclusions to her readers. As she explores the nature of sanity and social conformity and the manner in which they interrelate, Kaysen avoids outright indictment of the system that confined her. The scenes she narrates are complicated and offer no easy lessons.

In the course of her time at McLean, Kaysen learns about the nature of mental illness, the cruelty and compassion of other people, and the obstacles that women face in society. She draws connections among the various stigmas she faces as a young woman. As an adolescent, petty rebellions and refusal to follow rules alarm her parents. Later, at a short-lived typing job, unconcealed sexism in the workplace shocks Kaysen. Once a patient at McLean, she feels the discomfort with which outsiders greet her and the other patients, an experience repeated when she tries to find employment outside the hospital.

The adult Kaysen confesses to fighting a mild revulsion toward the mentally ill, born of fear that she might backslide into that “parallel universe.” She hopes never to return to the sad place where mental instability collides with a society quick to isolate it.

More Help

Previous Next
The answer to question 17 is incorrect

by texasfocus, April 19, 2014

17. Whom do the girls visit on the maximum-security ward?

SparkNotes says the correct answer is Lisa Cody, when it was actually Alice Calais (vivid because of the feces all over her and the room).


2 out of 2 people found this helpful

Number 5 is incorrect

by danakimberley, July 25, 2015

5. What does Jim Watson offer to do for Kaysen?
Sparknotes says the correct answer is
(C) Help her escape to New York
but the real correct answer is
(A) Take her to England.
In the chapter The Secret of Life, page 27, Jim Watson offers to take Susanna to England and she refuses.

Why is question 22, answer A?

by SeeingAuras, January 25, 2016

22. In Kaysen’s opinion, what is a sign that a mental patient may be incurable?
Can someone tell me where to find the answer to question 22 and explain why it is A no desire to be cured instead of what I originally thought which was C no doubts about one's craziness?


1 out of 1 people found this helpful

See all 4 readers' notes   →