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Girl, Interrupted | Study Guide

Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted | My Suicide | Summary



Contemplating her own suicide attempt with an overdose of aspirin, Susanna describes the preparation necessary to kill oneself. Organization, means, opportunity, and motive are as relevant to suicide as they are to premeditated murder, or any other successful endeavor. The most important element, Susanna says, is detachment: the ability to imagine yourself in the process of dying. She claims that her own motives were weak—she didn't want to write a paper and felt exhausted with existential questions that began to pervade every aspect of her life. In fact, she called her boyfriend to warn him. Full of regret, she passes out over the meat counter in a grocery store, her last image being the tightly wrapped bloody meat. The police find her and take her to the hospital, where the doctors pump her stomach. Waking up, Susanna is glad to be alive; makes a few changes. She works harder in school and engages in a relationship with her English teacher. This convinces her she was successful in silencing the part of her that constantly wondered whether life is worth living. In retrospect, she realizes this was just a temporary reprieve.


Unlike Daisy's suicide, Susanna's suicide attempt was not successful, and unlike Polly's, it left no visible scars. While Susanna does not openly compare her own suicide attempt with theirs, it is hard not to wonder whether this contrast means that her attempt was less serious. Was it just a cry for help rather than a determined attempt to end her life? Susanna's analysis of the many steps that go into a successful suicide dispels the myth that suicide is a rash emotional reaction. It takes careful planning, like any other complex endeavor. Most importantly, it takes the ability to look at yourself from the outside, watching yourself in the moment of death.

A sense of detachment from life and relationships is a symptom of any number of mental disorders. It is also a part of Susanna's own diagnosis. In a case of dramatic irony, detachment and isolation from the world outside is also prescribed as a cure, and detachment from the endless tedium of life inside is a way for the girls to cope.

Susanna reveals that she was gripped by regret after her suicide attempt, admitting that she didn't really want to die. Instead, she wanted to get rid of the parts of herself she didn't like—the endless questions about whether life is worth living. At first she is happy to have survived, but she soon realizes that making superficial changes—working harder in school and changing boyfriends—is not the same as changing on the inside. She feels kinship with the bloody meat wrapped tightly in the meat counter—she's a young woman, emotionally raw and vulnerable, trapped in the confines of social expectations.

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