Literature Study GuidesGirl InterruptedNineteen Sixty Eight Summary

Girl, Interrupted | Study Guide

Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted | Nineteen Sixty-Eight | Summary



The girls watch reports of the death of civil right leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy on television. Through this lens they see student unrest, antiwar demonstrations, and the Civil Rights movement unfold. Calmer because they see their anger acted out by others, they watch the turmoil with great hope that the world may be changing. Susanna notes, however, that she and the other patients are safe in the hospital, while the activists they watch on television are vulnerable to injury: "Fantasies don't include repercussions." The patients see Bobby Seale, a leading Civil Rights activist, bound and gagged in court. Cynthia cries out, "They do that to me," comparing his experience to hers in electroshock therapy. Lisa reminds her that Seale is gagged because people might believe him, while nobody will ever believe the girls.


The political upheaval in 1968 mirrors the girls' inner turmoil. While the girls see their hopes and dreams mirrored in the lives of the student nurses, they see their anger, frustration, and desire for liberation acted out in demonstrations across America.

While the girls first draw hope from watching the upheaval on TV, their sense of kinship takes a downturn when the rioters are arrested, prosecuted, and locked up. At first glance, this seems to suggest that the rioters are as powerless as the girls, but Lisa's comment reveals the truth. The rioters are bound and gagged because their voice threatens the establishment. A person in a mental ward, however, has no voice. While the demonstrations in 1968 may affect change in the real world, the change will not reach McLean: the girls will still be considered crazy and will lack credibility. The parallel universe has not changed; the girls are still invisible.

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