Girl, Interrupted


Susanna Kaysen

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Girl, Interrupted: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Susanna, Lisa Cody, Georgina, and Lisa sit on the floor in front of the nursing station smoking cigarettes. They discuss what interval of checks one would need in order to complete intercourse with a man. Lisa Cody brags that she once “did it” on fifteen-minute checks. Susanna recalls that on her boyfriend’s last visit, one of the nurses caught her performing oral sex on him, and that the two of them were then placed on supervised visits. Since the added restriction, Susanna’s boyfriend has stopped visiting. Susanna laments the fact that she was caught to the other girls. Lisa, meanwhile, is excited about the fact that Georgina has agreed to “lend” her boyfriend, Wade, to Lisa for an afternoon. Georgina insists that sex with Wade only takes ten minutes, and that even if the two of them are caught, it doesn’t matter because the nurses “like” Wade.
An intimate and even hopeful portrait of Susanna and her fellow patients’ everyday lives on the ward unfurls in this passage, as the girls socialize and behave like any other teenage girls, even if for just a little while. They want to find love, express themselves through their sexualities, and bond with one another, just like any other young women. This passage serves to challenge readers’ perceptions of the psychiatric ward as a place devoid of normalcy or levity, and offers a portrait of the “parallel” world which bears a striking resemblance to the “real” one.
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Lisa and the other girls implore Susanna to get rid of her boyfriend and “get a patient boyfriend.” Susanna, though, deflects their offers to find her someone on the men’s ward, thinking privately that she does not want a “crazy” boyfriend. Lisa, as if reading Susanna’s mind, tells her that she has to find a “crazy” boyfriend now—she no longer has a choice. All four girls laugh, and dream of what they would give for half-hour checks.
As Susanna realizes that life on the ward can be reminiscent of “real” life every once in a while, she becomes afraid to accept her new life and her new friends. Lisa, though, points out that Susanna is no different or better than her or Georgina, and that getting a “crazy” boyfriend is not beneath her—and in fact, it could even be fun.
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