Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness


Susannah Cahalan

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

In late May, Dr. Najjar asks Susannah to return to the hospital for a week for another round of IVIG treatment. Susannah is distraught at the thought of being back in the hospital. To cheer her up, Dad invites Stephen and Susannah to spend the night at his house. They sit in the backyard with Giselle, eat barbecue, and chat—all except for Susannah. Though the others attempt to include her, Susannah insists that she's boring and uninteresting. Nobody is able to convince her otherwise. Susannah explains that her antipsychotic medications are partially to blame, though her healing brain is certainly contributing to her difficulties with conversation.
The unique view afforded to the reader (that of getting to look inside Susannah's mind) reveals that Susannah isn't actually boring and uninteresting—it's actually just an issue of her being physically able to communicate her thoughts and ideas. This again illustrates the relationship between identity and illness, as Susannah's illness is preventing her from performing an identity that makes her comfortable in the world, and that is familiar to others.
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When dinner is over, Susannah is so tired that she puts her head down on the table and falls asleep, only waking up when her own snores startle her. She gets up, walks to the outdoor speakers, and puts on Rihanna's song "Umbrella." She looks back at Stephen, Giselle, and Dad, and begins swaying happily. Stephen gets up to dance with Susannah, and Dad and Giselle slow dance.
Susannah is indeed capable of communicating, just not through speech like she's used to doing. Dancing with Stephen allows them to feel closer, while seeing Susannah happy in turn lifts Dad's mood.
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