author and narrator. A doctor diagnoses Kaysen with borderline personality
disorder in 1967, when
she is 17. The previous year, Kaysen attempted suicide
by swallowing fifty aspirin. She voluntarily commits herself to
McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Belmont, Massachusetts.
Over the next two years, Kaysen confronts her illness, experiences profound
unhappiness, as well as the treachery and kindness of peers and
authority figures, and finally meets the future that awaits her
outside the confining but protective walls of the ward.
in-depth analysis of Susanna Kaysen.
fellow patient and the effective leader of the girls on the ward.
Lisa is proud of her diagnosis as a sociopath, a personality driven
by self-interest. Lisa is wildly unpredictable. She throws tantrums
and plans escapes for others when she isn't making her own attempts
to escape. Kaysen is initially in awe of Lisa's apparent confidence.
Over time, though, she learns that Lisa cares little for the consequences
of her actions and can be willfully cruel.
in-depth analysis of Lisa.
roommate at McLean Hospital. Georgina suffers from depression and
is a kind and constant companion to Kaysen. Georgina has a romantic relationship
with Wade, a violent and unpredictable patient on another ward.
in-depth analysis of Georgina.
disfigured patient. Before entering McLean, Polly poured gasoline
over her face and upper body and set herself aflame. Polly appears
to be at peace, even cheerful, during her first year at the hospital.
One day, Polly suddenly becomes aware of the awful extent of her
injuries. She is inconsolable. Kaysen notes that although everyone
at McLean is affected by sickness, Polly is the only patient trapped
forever by the consequences of her illness.
patient who spends the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas at
the hospital each year. Daisy lets no one into her room, emerging
only for laxatives and the whole roast chickens her father brings
twice weekly. Lisa discovers that Daisy’s room is filled with the picked-over
carcasses of the chickens. Daisy leaves the hospital to live in
an apartment her father has purchased for her. The girls later learn
that Daisy committed suicide on her birthday.
severe depressive on Kaysen’s ward. Cynthia undergoes months of
electroshock therapy. The effects of the shock treatments change
Cynthia’s personality, leaving her totally unable to assert herself.
Cynthia is close to Polly.
boyfriend and a patient at McLean hospital. Wade is prone to violent
outbursts, requiring several orderlies to subdue him. Wade fascinates
the girls with stories of his father’s exploits as a CIA agent,
including his associations with notorious figures from the Watergate
scandal. Wade’s fits of uncontrollable rage ultimately land him
in the maximum-security ward.
patient who becomes fast friends with Lisa, only to be cruelly rejected.
Diagnosed, like Lisa, as a sociopath, Lisa Cody emulates Lisa’s
behavior. Feeling that her position among the girls is threatened,
Lisa turns against her, and Lisa Cody leaves the hospital. Returning
from an escape to Boston one day, Lisa tells the other girls that
Lisa Cody has become a “real” junkie.
methamphetamine-addicted patient from Mexico. Torrey’s parents,
embarrassed by their daughter’s condition, arrive to retrieve her
after a short time. Lisa plans to help Torrey escape, but Valerie
halts Lisa’s plan.
troubled patient who pronounces her last name “callous.” Alice’s
mental breakdown results in her transfer to the maximum-security
ward. Alice’s appearance and the frightening atmosphere of the ward appall
the girls when they visit.
head nurse on Kaysen’s ward. The girls like and respect Valerie
for her fairness and willingness to speak up on their behalf.
therapist. Impressed by Kaysen’s intelligence, Melvin begins an
advanced program of analysis with her. Kaysen finds the experience
unconvincing and discovers that she was Melvin’s first analysis
evening nurse on Kaysen’s ward. Mrs. McWeeney hails from the old
school. Her old-fashioned uniform and values alienate the girls.
older female psychiatrist on the hospital staff. Dr. Wick is from
Africa and is entirely unfamiliar with the American youth culture
of her patients. Vulgarity and frank discussion of sex embarrass
Dr. Wick, whose efforts at treatment are not necessarily effective.
Prize–winning friend of Kaysen’s family. Beloved by Kaysen for his
unpredictable behavior, he visits Kaysen and offers to help her
escape. She turns him down in the belief that she should continue treatment.
Introduced to Kaysen prior to her hospitalization,
he stays in touch with her throughout her time at McLean. His marriage
proposal allows Kaysen to leave the hospital. They are married only
a short time.
The English Teacher
Kaysen’s high school teacher and lover. He takes
her to the Frick Museum in New York, where she first sees the Vermeer
painting titled Girl, Interrupted at Her Music.
affair is short-lived.
The Diagnosing Doctor
The psychiatrist who encourages Kaysen to enter McLean
Hospital. He diagnoses her in a mere twenty minutes. Kaysen believes
that his swift diagnosis expresses the psychiatrist’s misguided
effort to save her from the wayward youth culture he disdains and