Form and Content
Girl, Interrupted is Susanna Kaysen’s idiosyncratic account of the nearly two years that she spent in a mental institution, after she was “interrupted in the music of being seventeen.” In 1967, after having been interviewed briefly by a physician whom she had never seen before, Kaysen was put in a taxicab and sent to McLean Hospital, a private residential psychiatric treatment center.
Initially, Kaysen’s psychiatric treatment grew out of a failed—and fainthearted—suicide attempt involving fifty aspirin tablets, out of her failure to measure up to society’s expectations:[M]y parents and teachers did not share my self-image. Their image of me was unstable, since it was out of kilter with reality and based on their needs and wishes. They did not put much value on my capacities, which were admittedly few, but genuine. I read everything, I wrote constantly, and I had boyfriends by the barrelful.
This same diagnosis of social maladjustment, rendered with a particularly nasty misogynistic edge, is apparently what leads the psychiatrist to recommend Kaysen’s commitment after concluding that she has been picking at a facial blemish because she has trouble with a boyfriend. Several chapters later, almost as an afterthought, Kaysen reveals that this same doctor was later accused of sexual harassment by a former patient. It is characteristic of her style that she makes little of this observation, but like her, the reader cannot...
(The entire section is 451 words.)