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Girl, Interrupted | Study Guide

Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted | Politics | Summary



Georgina's boyfriend, Wade, also a mental patient, claims that his father is a CIA agent and a veteran of the Bay of Pigs, the botched American invasion of Cuba. He also says his father knows who killed President Kennedy, and associates with dangerous men such as E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy. The two men will become instrumental players in the Watergate break-in, a political scandal of the 1970s. Nobody believes him, not even the girls on the ward. When Susanna accidentally pours hot sugar onto Georgina's hand while they are making caramels, Georgina doesn't scream. Susanna remembers hearing that Liddy and Hunt taught themselves to withstand torture by burning their hands over a candle to desensitize themselves.


The theme of a topsy-turvy world continues. Susanna at first rejects Wade's claims that his father has classified information. Similarly, she rejects the idea that he knows anything of significance about history and politics. However, when Georgina's reaction to burning her hand reminds her of the way Liddy and Hunt prepared themselves for potential torture, she questions the labels of sanity and insanity. After all, Liddy's and Hunt's behavior seems reasonable considering its context: preparation for torture. Yet Georgina's lack of emotional reaction to the pain of searing her hand can be considered a sign of her depression.

This line of thought suggests that because behavior is not intrinsically sane or insane, labeling a person as mentally unstable based on behavior alone is questionable. In retrospect, this casts more doubt on the psychiatrist's diagnosis of Susanna's depression based on her behavior in a brief interview. Without context and patient history, a clear diagnosis cannot be made.

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