Girl, Interrupted | Study Guide

Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted | Sharps | Summary



The girls are not allowed to possess objects that could possibly be used as weapons against others or themselves. Everyday things such as hairpins or earrings are considered too dangerous for the girls to keep. They must eat with plastic or even cardboard cutlery and can shave their legs only under supervision. Many girls choose not to shave.


The extreme level of restriction on the ward extends to their personal possessions. While its purpose of the restrictions is to ensure the girls' safety, they have an unfortunate effect: the girls are utterly dependent on the staff. Considered incapable of performing the simplest tasks without supervision, they are at the mercy of the nurses' authority. Eating with cardboard utensils is undignified, and shaving one's legs under supervision is humiliating. The girls are treated like children without any rights and responsibilities. Susanna's humorous comment that their refusal to shave their legs turns them into early feminists equates the girls' lack of power at McLean with a sign of defiance—a situation not far from the truth.

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