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Girl, Interrupted | Study Guide

Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted | Characters

Character Description
Susanna Susanna Kaysen is the author, first-person narrator, and main character of the memoir. She chronicles her nearly two-year stay at McLean Hospital as she confronts and eventually manages what doctors diagnose as borderline personality disorder. Read More
Lisa Rowe Lisa Rowe is a sociopath and is therefore guided mainly by self-interest. Her unpredictable, rebellious, and often manipulative behavior makes her the strongest personality on the ward and the leader of the girls. Read More
Georgina Georgina, diagnosed with depression, is Susanna's roommate. She provides companionship and camaraderie throughout Susanna's stay. Read More
Polly Polly is a severely disfigured patient. Her disfigurement is a result of her attempt to commit suicide by setting herself on fire. Read More
Daisy Daisy stays at McLean over the holidays only. Her illness manifests in an obsessive need for laxatives and chicken. Read More
Alice Alice Calais is a seemingly well-adjusted patient. After a mental breakdown, she is interned in the maximum security ward, where her mental state worsens and her physical appearance deteriorates.
Lisa Cody Lisa Cody is a sociopath with a suburban background who admires and emulates Lisa Rowe. When Lisa rejects her, she runs away and becomes a drug addict.
Cynthia Cynthia is Polly's best friend. She is severely depressed and undergoes repeated electroshock therapy.
Diagnosing doctor The diagnosing doctor concludes that Susanna has a borderline personality disorder, then tricks her into admitting herself to McLean after examining her for only 20 minutes. The author suggests that his quick diagnosis is guided as much by his preconceived ideas of proper behavior for teenage girls as it is by his genuine concern for her welfare.
English teacher Susanna's English teacher and lover takes her to New York City, where she discovers the Vermeer painting Girl Interrupted at Her Music that inspires the title of the memoir.
Mrs. McWeeney Mrs. McWeeney, the old-fashioned evening nurse, rules the ward like a prison guard, flies into unpredictable rages, and often forgets to dispense medication.
Melvin Melvin is Susanna's therapist; she is his first patient. He offers interpretations of Susanna's experiences that do not resonate with her.
Student nurses The student nurses live the lives the girls imagine, so they become a source of envy, admiration, and hope for the girls.
Susanna's high-school boyfriend Susanna's high-school boyfriend alerts her mother to her suicide attempt. He visits her only sporadically to have sex, but has trouble accepting her status as a mental patient.
Susanna's future husband Having met her before she enters McLean, Susanna's future husband stays in touch with her and begins to court her toward the end of her stay. His marriage proposal convinces the authorities that she is ready to leave.
Torrey Torrey is an amphetamine addict from an emotionally abusive family. She tries to escape McLean when her parents come to take her back home, but heavy sedatives render her defenseless.
Valerie Valerie is the young and outspoken head nurse on the ward. She develops a good rapport with the girls yet maintains control and order, even in precarious situations.
Wade Wade, a McLean patient with violent tendencies, is Georgina's boyfriend. He claims that his father works for the CIA and has insight into President Kennedy's assassination. After a violent outburst, he ends up in maximum security.
James Watson James Watson is a Nobel Laureate for his work on DNA and a Kaysen family friend. He suggests that Susanna run away with him to England.
Dr. Wick Dr. Wick is an older, prudish female psychiatrist who has a hard time relating to the girls due to a cultural and generational divide.
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