Didion’s willingness to cross social boundaries, particularly in the context of a hospital, shows the degree to which her need for control has disrupted her sense of accepted social behavior. On numerous occasions in the hospital she finds herself in a position where the doctors and hospital staff see her as intrusive. She makes no apologies for her behavior because, in many instances, she is correct about the proper course of action, but she finds herself slipping from being protective and somewhat overbearing to being completely irrational. While her staunch resistance to Quintana’s tracheotomy is honestly felt, she realizes later that she wasn’t concerned about potential health complications as much as she felt the need to hold onto the idea that her daughter might be able to leave the hospital at a moment’s notice. Didion finds that her natural impulse to take charge of the situation by learning as much as she can and aggressively asking questions has the expected consequence of bothering authority figures, but she also finds that the reasons behind her questions and demands originate in personal emotional needs and not genuinely logical concerns.

Didion continues the pattern of intellectual inquiry that she began shortly after John’s death, but her approach shifts. While she once was a reader engaging in a process of self-education, she is now a detective seeking clues that will produce a solution. When she previously conducted research, Didion sought out models and examples of grief experiences as a way of understanding her own emotions and reactions. Now, informed by an expanded understanding of her need for control, she assimilates information as a way to help her take action. Like a detective, she seeks out information about Quintana’s illness so she can challenge the choices made by the medical professionals at UCLA, believing that if she is properly informed she can prevent further mistakes and help bring about the desired solution—Quintana’s total recovery. She begins to apply this pattern of behavior to the problem of John’s death as well, as she works to figure out the origin of the medical problems that led to his death and, by understanding them, correct them and bring him back.