Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Susannah tells the reader that people often ask her what it felt like to be a different person. She says it's impossible to answer, as she didn't have any self-awareness during her dark period. However, she does remember a few instances from the first few weeks after her release that captured her feelings of being a different person.
By reminding the reader that all of Part 2 and much of the following chapters are written using outside sources, Cahalan insists again that her narration is unreliable and might not be entirely true.
Themes
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
A few days after her hospital stay for plasma exchange, Stephen takes Susannah to see his sisters, Rachael and Bridget, and their children. As they drive, Susannah comments on turkey that Stephen had brought her in the hospital, and Stephen laughs. When they arrive at Rachael's house, Rachael is shocked to see Susannah's state. Susannah notes that though she was aware that she wasn't totally herself, she had no idea just how out of it she was. The two toddlers don't seem aware that Susannah is any different, but Rachael's six-year-old son is scared of Susannah. Susannah can't figure out why.
Though it's entirely out of place, Susannah's comment about the turkey shows that she's regaining the ability to make memories, a sure sign that she's healing. The fact that this is the first thing that Susannah remembers drives home the dissonance between what's going on inside of her and what's visible from the outside, and sets this issue up as her primary focus as she heals.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Stephen hands the children some of Susannah's stuffed animals from the hospital, and then chats with his sisters for a few minutes. They all wonder if Susannah will ever be the same again. Stephen soon guides Susannah back to the car. Susannah tells the reader that this scene is branded in her mind as a key moment in her recovery, as it made it abundantly clear how far she has to go.
Stephen and his sisters consider the difference between their memories of Susannah and the Susannah in front of them. Other people’s memories of a person are crucial to the perception of that person’s public identity, which then informs and is informed by their inner, private identity.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Another instance that stands out in Susannah's mind is the first time she saw James. When James arrives at Mom's house after finishing his first year at college, Susannah and Stephen are out. He busies himself watching TV until Susannah arrives and hobbles into the house, supported by Stephen. She doesn't notice him initially, and her distorted, puffy appearance is disturbing for James. When Susannah finally notices James, the look on his face makes her realize how sick she is. She, James, and Mom embrace and cry.
While James has just undergone a coming-of-age of sorts at his first year of college, Susannah has spent the last month becoming increasingly more childlike. As their roles reverse, they'll need to renegotiate their relationship given the new circumstances.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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