Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

This essay will offer a summary and analysis of Susanna Kaysen’s memoir “Girl, Interrupted.” It will discuss Kaysen’s experiences in a psychiatric hospital, the book’s exploration of mental health and treatment practices, and its reflection on the concept of normalcy in society. You can also find more related free essay samples at PapersOwl about Film Analysis.

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Girl, Interrupted is an American psychological film and memoir based on true events of Susanna Kaysen’s life. Over the course of her life and her stay in a mental hospital, she experiences three major stages; mental health, friend influence and self-esteem.

Susana Kaysen is only eighteen years old at the beginning. She is an intelligent but troubled girl with a surprisingly and interesting outlook of life. Susana attempted suicide during a holiday party, which then makes her family very worried and concerned.

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Her family then forces her to have a consultation with a doctor, a friend of the family, who will push her into a couple of years of hospitalization. Susana just explains she is “exhausted”, and had a bad headache- which she took a bunch of pills with vodka. At the end of the consultation, Susana decides to sign herself into McLean Hospital.

Susana narrates by writing in her “diary” for the most part and begins to describe the people and outburst of life surrounding her and in the mental hospital during the 1960s. Her narration begins to sound emotionless and gives of the “I don’t know what to think or do” attitude- Susana, as an adolescent, she’s going through a lot of feelings which are getting complicated. While Susana searches for the “nature of sanity” and “social conformity, she tries to bypass the system that restrained her.

Susana experiences mental health factors before and during her stay, which she doesn’t completely understand. Before she is admitted, Susana ditched school, had an affair with her high school teacher, and attempted suicide. But of course, like most teenagers, she just shrugged it off and said it wasn’t a big deal. If this isn’t wasn’t a cry for help, everyone is baffled, because of her personality, it was unusual and out of character for her to do these serious doings.

As time moves on, Susana befriends Lisa Rowe, the leader and the most popular and biggest influencer of all the girls in the ward. Lisa isn’t like the other girls in the ward, she is extremely proud of her diagnosis as a sociopath, and thinks she is “hot shit” because of it. Lisa has that personality that everyone is attracted to and can make anyone do whatever she wants, but she has the confidence and dark side that can be unpredictable which attracts Susana even more to befriending her.

But over time, Susana begins to gets sick and tired of being influenced and peer pressured by Lisa. Everyone experiences peer pressure and it is a key part in society. It is something that all adolescents have to deal with in the course of growing up (Berndt, 1996; Brown et. al., 2008, p 237). Lisa impels temper tantrums and plans and attempts to escape, and that’s when Susana begins to realize that Lisa doesn’t care for the repercussions of her actions and can be knowingly heartless.

The ups and downs during Susana’s stay at the hospital, she experiences some self-esteem issues. Susana knows she is not like most of the girls in this ward, and has the ability to use abstract thinking and questions about “one’s self”, such as “What kind of person am I? What characteristics make me who I am? … How do people perceive me? What kind of life am I likely to have I the future?” (p 162). By this age, self-conception become more focused on traits, which then becomes more abstract as they try to describe themselves. Adolescents are able to distinguish “actual self” and “possible selves” (Markus & Nurius, 1986; Osyerman Destin, & Novin, 2015, p. 164). But there are two more selves that go hand in hand with possible selves: ideal self and feared self. Actual self is a person’s perception of the self as it is, while possible selves is a person’s conception of the self as it potentially may be. Ideal self is the person that the adolescent would like to be and feared self is the self a person imagines it is possible to become but dreads becoming (p.164).

Susana experiences all of these self-conceptions at one point or another during her stay. But along with this, she is also taking medicine she really doesn’t what it is and what is for, and she has no idea what her personal diagnosis is until she sneaks into the office after hours and reads she is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She is fighting what she think is the truth and what is reality- and having a hard time distinguishing the two.

Just like Lisa, Susana is a unique person as well, especially with outlook on life. One theory can explain this is Cognitive Development by psychologist Jean Piaget. Cognitive development can be best explained as the changes over time in how people think, how they solve problems, and how their capacities for memory and attention change. Over the years of hard work, Piaget’s observations showed him that this development goes through stages. The idea of cognitive stages factors that each person’s cognitive abilities are coordinated into logical mental structure; a person who thinks within a particular stage in one aspect of life should think within that stage in all other aspects of life as well because all thinking is part of the same mental structure (Keating, 2012, p. 69).

The drive from one stage to another is maturation: the driving force behind development from one stage to the next (Miller, & Miller, 2002, p. 70). Piaget had said the active construction of reality takes place through schemes/schemas which is mental structure for organizing and interpreting information. The two processes that use schemes/schemas are assimilation which is the cognitive process that occurs when new information is altered to fit an existing scheme and accommodation which the cognitive process that occurs when a scheme is changed to adapt to new information.

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Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from