Literature Study GuidesGirl InterruptedNew Frontiers In Dental Health Summary

Girl, Interrupted | Study Guide

Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted | New Frontiers in Dental Health | Summary



After almost two years at McLean, Susanna is about to leave. Reminiscing about her former one-week job as a typist, she remarks on the lack of gender equality in the workplace. All supervisors were male at her old job, while all typists were women. The women were subjected to a stricter dress code, tighter rules, and fewer privileges. Having been the only one who had issues with this situation, she wonders whether her lack of respect for regulations was a sign of feminism or madness. She abandons her job search and decides to become a writer, a desire that meets resistance at McLean: her social worker and Valerie think she should aspire to be a dental technician. A marriage proposal, however, garners approval, as it corresponds well with the stereotypical female roles in the 1960s.


The jobs available to Susanna before she leaves McLean all remind her of the sexism she experienced in a past. Her rebellion against this obvious inequality represents the nonconformity typical of the youth culture at the time. Surprisingly, Susanna was the only woman in her office to openly question gender-based rules, showing how her lack of compliance could blur the lines between madness and feminism. "Was I crazy or right?" she wonders.

Reiterating a theme that permeates the memoir, Susanna answers this question only indirectly. During the 1960s women were expected to play conventional roles. She is expected to apply for subordinate jobs or not to work at all and get married. A woman who instead wants to be an independent writer, as Susanna does, seems to be a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Her social worker, a professional who should be Susanna's biggest booster, instead reinforces sexist cultural norms in suggesting she become a dental technician. Even Valerie agrees. When Susanna accepts a marriage proposal, acquiescing to the most traditional role of a woman, she is considered cured and is released from McLean: accepting traditional female roles is a sign of sanity.

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