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Girl, Interrupted | Study Guide

Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted | Section Summaries

See Section Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • April 1967

    After a short psychiatric session, Susanna signs herself into McLean.

    The Taxi
  • While at McLean

    Polly, who had set herself on fire, realizes she is trapped inside her scarred skin.

  • Later at McLean

    Lisa Rowe, a sociopath, runs away and then plays a prank.

  • Later at McLean

    Daisy commits suicide while living on her own.

    If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now
  • Later at McLean

    Susanna describes her failed suicide attempt the previous year.

    My Suicide
  • Later at McLean

    Lisa Rowe humiliates and tortures Lisa Cody, who runs away and becomes a junkie.

    Another Lisa
  • Later at McLean

    Torrey is forcibly returned to her abusive family; Susanna suffers a mental breakdown.

    Bare Bones
  • Later at McLean

    Alice suffers a mental breakdown and is moved to the maximum security ward.

    Calais is Engraved in My Heart
  • 1968

    Susanna begins therapy with Melvin and discovers tunnels underneath the hospital.

    The Shadow of the Real
  • Later in 1968

    Susanna accepts a marriage proposal and is released from McLean.

    Topography of the Future
  • After her release

    Susanna runs into Georgina and Lisa Rowe.

    Further On, Down the Road, You Will Accompany Me
  • 1993

    Susanna revisits Vermeer's ambiguous painting Girl Interrupted at Her Music.

    Girl, Interrupted

Section Summaries Chart

Section Summary
Toward A Topography of the Parallel Universe Girl, Interrupted begins with an image of the author's actual case record, which introduces the personal background of t... Read More
The Taxi Susanna starts narrating the day she signs herself into the hospital at a psychiatrist's office. He remarks that she is ... Read More
Etiology The field of etiology, from which this chapter takes its name, is the study of what causes diseases. The chapter offers ... Read More
Fire Polly is an inmate on the psychiatric ward who set herself on fire. Susanna notices that her scars do not change with ti... Read More
Freedom Lisa Rowe is a frequent runaway. Usually, she is picked up and quickly returned, but this time it takes a while. When sh... Read More
The Secret of Life When Susanna learns that she has a male visitor, she figures it's not her boyfriend, her father, or her English teacher.... Read More
Politics Georgina's boyfriend, Wade, also a mental patient, claims that his father is a CIA agent and a veteran of the Bay of Pig... Read More
If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now Daisy is not a permanent resident at McLean. She comes around the holidays and always gets a single room. Daisy is ill-t... Read More
My Suicide Contemplating her own suicide attempt with an overdose of aspirin, Susanna describes the preparation necessary to kill o... Read More
Elementary Topography Susanna feels betrayed by the doctor who has sent her to the psychiatric hospital after having talked to her for no more... Read More
Applied Topography Susanna compares the psychiatric hospital to a prison. Visitors have to enter through a series of locked doors to reach ... Read More
The Prelude to Ice Cream Susanna mentions other famous inmates of McLean, all of them famous songwriters and poets, such as Ray Charles, James Ta... Read More
Ice Cream Shortly after Daisy's suicide, the girls, accompanied by more nurses than usual, are taken into town for ice cream. Susa... Read More
Checks The nurses check on the girls in regular intervals of 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes, depending on the status of the patient's... Read More
Sharps The girls are not allowed to possess objects that could possibly be used as weapons against others or themselves. Everyd... Read More
Another Lisa A new patient, also called Lisa, arrives. They call her by her full name, Lisa Cody, to show deference to and distinguis... Read More
Checkmate A nurse's note reveals that Susanna's male visitor was caught with his zipper open, and the girls discuss how difficult ... Read More
Do You Believe Him or Me? The doctor who suggested that Susanna sign herself into the mental ward claims that he spoke to her for three hours. Sus... Read More
Velocity vs. Viscosity Susanna classifies the effects of insanity into two categories: slow and fast. Either the patient's thought processes sl... Read More
Security Screen Lisa Rowe demands fresh air and challenges Valerie, the head nurse, to open the window in her room. This task requires o... Read More
Keepers Susanna describes the staff on the girls' ward. Valerie is young, has beautiful hair, and is flexible and nimble enough ... Read More
Nineteen Sixty-Eight The girls watch reports of the death of civil right leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy on tele... Read More
Bare Bones Susanna describes the mental ward at McLean as both a prison and a refuge. The girls have no freedom or privileges, but ... Read More
Dental Health Susanna develops an abscess in her wisdom tooth. The dentist wants to take it out, but Susanna refuses. Valerie agrees, ... Read More
Calais is Engraved in My Heart The arrival of a new inmate, Alice Calais, prompts a disagreement over the pronunciation of her last name. Is it "Callou... Read More
The Shadow of the Real Susanna's therapist has died, and Susanna is sad because she enjoyed her sessions with him. She realizes he tricked her ... Read More
Stigmatography Susanna takes a leap in time to discuss her future after McLean. She says in job applications she made while still at th... Read More
New Frontiers in Dental Health After almost two years at McLean, Susanna is about to leave. Reminiscing about her former one-week job as a typist, she ... Read More
Topography of the Future Susanna recalls how she met her future husband at the movies before she was hospitalized. He tracks her down and stays l... Read More
Mind versus Brain Susanna contemplates the difference between "brain" and "mind," wondering what it is that creates consciousness from the... Read More
Borderline Personality Disorder Quoting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition (known as DSM-III), Susanna describes t... Read More
My Diagnosis Susanna accepts that her diagnosis was accurate for her self at age 18, yet she rejects what she calls "the charges agai... Read More
Further On, Down the Road, You Will Accompany Me Susanna meets two of her former fellow patients years later. Georgina comes to visit, treating Susanna's neighbor impoli... Read More
Girl, Interrupted Susanna describes her first visit to the Frick collection in New York with her English teacher. Back then, when she appr... Read More
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