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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Joanne Greenberg

Chapters 20-23

Summary Chapters 20-23


Deborah continues to burn herself in order to ease the pressure of the "volcano inside her." She hides the burns so well that a doctor suggests that she might return to the B ward soon. Deborah knows that matches and cigarettes are less guarded on the B ward, so returning there might hasten her death, so she immediately reveals her burns. Although the restrictions on cigarettes and matches are tightened, Deborah still succeeds in stealing them. When Dr. Fried returns, Deborah struggles to explain that she tried to work with Dr. Royson, but he was only interested in being "right." Esther, frightened by the news of Deborah's behavior, meets with Dr. Fried. Dr. Fried does not try to placate her with false hope. She states that she is in high demand, so she would never take on a hopeless case. Dr. Fried hopes that Esther has a dominating, strong will to help her insist that Deborah's treatment continue, despite her family's objections.

Deborah's burn wounds stubbornly refuse to heal. When Helene attacks Sylvia, Sylvia remains silent and motionless, like Deborah did when Helene attacked her. While the staff rushes to contain Helene, Deborah alone understands that Sylvia needs attention as much as Helene. She wants to offer Sylvia comfort, but she cannot bring herself to do it. When she confesses this to Dr. Fried, she reminds Deborah that the world has a host of similar moral quandaries. Deborah states that she thinks, although she doesn't know why, that her habit of burning herself is not as serious as Dr. Fried believes it is. Deborah decides that she will not use the patients' cigarette butts to burn herself because she doesn't want to implicate them in her delinquency. She throws down a book of matches she stole from Dr. Fried, declaring that she will not use her either.

Deborah experiences a psychotic episode in which she writes Yri words all over the bathroom, some of them in her own blood. When she returns to consciousness, she realizes that the death she fears might not be a physical one. Deborah explains to Dr. Fried that she felt a combination of fear and anger during the episode. Dr. Fried assures her that she has a talent for health and life. Meanwhile, Deborah hears that Miss Coral threw a bed at Mrs. Forbes, one of the few staff members whom the patients try to protect from harm. Deborah, hoping to discover the reason for Miss Coral's violence against Mrs. Forbes, eavesdrops on a conversation in the staff room. Some of the attendants declare that everyone on the ward, including Deborah, is getting sicker.

Dr. Fried asks Deborah if she thinks she's getting sicker. Deborah complains that she is tired of thinking and explaining. She threatens to give up her treatment, and Dr. Fried tells her that the "poor little girl" can stay crazy forever. Dr. Fried again reminds her that she never promised Deborah that it would be easy. Deborah states that she doesn't think she's getting sicker at all. Dr. Fried repeats this assertion during a staff meeting. Afterwards, Dr. Royson states that he simply didn't get along with Deborah. He believes that Dr. Fried should be trusted.

Deborah suffers frequent psychotic episodes, but the staff seems to treat her more kindly. Dr. Fried says that the reason is that Deborah has lost her "stoniness of expression." Deborah is afraid because she has often made enemies because people misinterpreted her facial expressions. When Deborah and an attendant are walking through the cold, Deborah declares that they at least only have one kind of cold, one that a coat can alleviate. The attendant angrily denies this, explaining that the patients do not have to work at hard jobs for low pay while supporting a family. Later, Deborah decides that she will not die. Deborah realizes that being a Japanese soldier represented anger and martyrdom, the characteristics of her grandfather. Meanwhile, Deborah's burns finally begin to heal. Carla returns to the hospital after a brief stint in the world outside.

Dr. Fried tells Deborah that she has realized something about Deborah's confession that she had tried to kill Suzy. A five-year-old could not possibly have lifted a heavy baby out of a bassinet and held it out a window, only to draw it back in a few seconds later. Later when she notices Carla's hands shaking, Deborah steadies them with her own hands.

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