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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Joanne Greenberg

Chapters 24-29

Chapters 20-23

Analysis

Summary

Deborah goes home for a five-day visit to a warm welcome, but dealing with her solicitous relatives is exhausting. Suzy cancels an outing with her friends that she was eagerly anticipating, causing Deborah to feel guilt and embarrassment. She wonders if giving up Yr for Earth is a fair trade. The Yr of early days, before the Censor, was a beautiful haven. Only the recent Yr, full of punishment and suffering, is horrible. Esther eagerly shows Deborah's sketches to admiring relatives, setting off an argument between her and Suzy later that night. Suzy feels neglected because she never receives such adulation, but Esther explains that it would be bragging to praise her. Praising Deborah is a plea for others to excuse her illness.

When she returns to the hospital, Deborah meets a new patient, Carmen, the daughter of a multimillionaire. Later, on a lark, she and Carla escape the hospital to walk along the road at night. When they return, they are placed in seclusion. In the morning, Dr. Halle asks her what the escape was all about. Deborah explains that she has always been clumsy, so she admires people who are atumai, an Yri word for people who are never ever clumsy. Last night, she and Carla were briefly atumai, an exhilarating experience. Dr. Halle is pleased that they shared a fun experience, so he does not punish them by revoking some of their privileges. They learn soon thereafter that Carmen's father took her out of the hospital. Deborah suddenly realizes that her parents allowed her to stay for a long time even when she showed no signs of improvement. Later, she learns that Carmen committed suicide after she left the hospital. Deborah frightens the other patients when she states that Carmen could have made it if she had stayed. Later, Carla tells her that she is going to try living on the outside again.

Deborah requests that she be allowed to live in the nearby town. Deborah takes a room from Mrs. King, an elderly landlady who has not lived in the town long enough to acquire the fear and contempt that most of the long-time residents feel toward out-patients from the hospital. Deborah partakes in the social life of the town, but everyone treats her with a politeness that separates her firmly from them, so she takes comfort in the laughing, humorous gods of Yr. She remembers that she had happy moments in the past that were buried over by the gloom and unhappiness of her illness. She finally admits that she created Yr and its gods herself, but she still fears that they might somehow be real. She wishes she could dismiss them whenever she wanted. Dr. Fried points out that Yr became beautiful and welcoming again when she began to fight its tyranny. Meanwhile, Deborah realizes that Carla is jealous of her artistic outlet.

Deborah realizes that she cannot get a job without a high school diploma. However, she does not want to attend the local high school where her classmates will be three years younger than she. When a social worker suggests that she take classes in preparation for the GED examinations, Deborah suffers another psychotic episode. She is terrified that Yr no longer has its old logic now that she has begun to accept the laws of Earth. Nevertheless, she chooses to take the GED classes and begin building a life on Earth's terms. She perseveres with her studies and passes the GED exam with a score high enough to gain admittance into college if she wants to go. She calls to give her parents the good news, but their pitiful pride in her accomplishment saddens her. Walking back to the hospital, Deborah is stricken with fear and hopelessness that she will never be able to live like average people, that the wall between her and them will always be there. She suffers another psychotic episode, but when she returns to consciousness, she opens her school textbooks and tells the gods of Yr that she is going to fight for her place on Earth despite their attempts to hold her back.

Commentary

After Carmen's unfortunate suicide, Deborah finally recognizes the value of her family's sacrifices for her. Despite the anguish that her prolonged treatment has caused them, they never removed her from the hospital. Despite their doubts and frustrations with her slow progress, they never stopped her treatment. Their faith, love, and trust gave them the strength to endure the uncertainty and the setbacks so that she could have the means to become free of her illness.

Deborah's decision to try life as an outpatient is a significant change in her life. She faces the prejudices and fears of a town that has long heard lurid tales of depravity about the patients at the mental hospital. She endures the polite but rigid isolation imposed on her by the residents while pursuing a GED and continuing her treatment with Dr. Fried. The stakes of her struggle with her illness are nothing more and nothing less than the ability to control and manage her own life. Meanwhile, Deborah is also capable of taking pleasure in real world, as her midnight escape from the hospital with Carla indicates.

Although Deborah is plagued with sadness and doubt because she must fight so hard for the small achievements that others take for granted, she doesn't give up. In the last chapter, she suffers another psychotic episode and has to spend a night in the hospital. Nevertheless, she resolves to continue fighting, giving up her allegiance to Yr. Although her journey to recovery is not yet finished, the novel ends on the hopeful suggestion that she will eventually be healthy.

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