Susanna we, the meekest and weakest, would be

Susanna Kaysen was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a daughter to an MIT professor. With a natural gift for writing, Kaysen often found a passion that would result in her defining success. Kaysen grew up in the midst of national turmoil and reform, witnessing the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the American Indian Movement, and the Stonewall riots. These revolutions produced radical changes in America, as well as the social norms placed on its citizens. Kaysen dedicates a whole chapter to describing the impacts of these events on fellow patients at McLean Hospital, who found solace in witnessing a shift in society: “The world was about to flip, the meek were about to inherit the earth or, more precisely, wrest it from the strong, and we, the meekest and weakest, would be heirs to the vast estate of all that had been denied us” (Kaysen 93). During this time, Kaysen was admitted to the infamous McLean Hospital, which was known for its patients such as Sylvia Plath and Ray Charles. Despite its reputation, professionals argue over the validity the treatments at the ward, stating, “While her time on the ward was no fun, it’s not clear what lessons for us now there are to learn from Kaysen’s experience over thirty years ago.  Even Kaysen doesn’t seem to have come to a definite conclusion about it” (Perring 1). Kaysen went through therapy sessions and found amusement in the lives of her fellow patients. However, she witnessed the stigma surrounding mental illness during and after her time at the hospital. After exiting the hospital, Kaysen experienced a short-lived marriage without having children. She wrote Girl, Interrupted in 1993 with a lawyer’s help to obtain her medical records in order to highlight her life with a mental illness in a safer nature. This was Kaysen’s most iconic novel, and she followed with works of fiction in contrast with her memoir.Girl, Interrupted is divided into numerous short chapters, all highlighting Kaysen’s significant experiences in the hospital, her thoughts, and insight into her illness. While the novel does follow chronological order, there are chapters that act as tangents in which Kaysen usually explores her inner psyche or broader aspects of the hospital itself. For example, Kaysen devoted a chapter to explaining the hospital’s layout and her interpretation of its structure. Kaysen also goes into depth about the other patients, seeing as they shaped her entire experience at McLean. These social interactions play a significant role in the memoir, exploring each person’s development as well as Kaysen’s own development. Cutting from the main storyline, tangents like these offer a sense of multidimensionality to the hospital, as opposed to focusing only on herself.


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