Girl, Interrupted

by

Susanna Kaysen

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Girl Interrupted at Her Music (painting by Vermeer) Symbol Analysis

Girl Interrupted at Her Music (painting by Vermeer) Symbol Icon

Kaysen titled her memoir after a famous baroque painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, Girl Interrupted at Her Music. The painting, produced in the late 1650s, depicts a young woman interrupted by an older gentleman while studying music. In the book’s final pages, Kaysen and her boyfriend visit the Frick museum in New York City. When Kaysen encounters the painting for the first time since her last visit sixteen years earlier, she sees herself reflected in the girl’s expression, as the girl in the painting seems to be “look[ing] out for someone who would see her.” Kaysen becomes deeply emotional, feeling that her own life was “interrupted in the music of being seventeen.” The idea that Susanna’s life was unjustly interrupted by her committal to the McLean hospital haunts her, and as she stands in the Frick weeping before the painting of the titular “girl interrupted,” she is able to begin the process of grieving for the time she lost, putting an end to the interruption once and for all. Thus, she moves into her future with a framework for understanding and talking about what happened to her in her youth.

Girl Interrupted at Her Music (painting by Vermeer) Quotes in Girl, Interrupted

The Girl, Interrupted quotes below all refer to the symbol of Girl Interrupted at Her Music (painting by Vermeer). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Isolation and Seclusion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Girl, Interrupted published in 1994.
Chapter 34 Quotes

She had changed a lot in sixteen years. She was no longer urgent. In fact, she was sad. She was young and distracted, and her teacher was bearing down on her, trying to get her to pay attention. But she was looking out, looking for some- one who would see her. This time I read the title of the painting: Girl Interrupted at Her Music. Interrupted at her music, as my life had been, interrupted in the music of being seventeen, as her life had been, snatched and fixed on canvas: one moment made to stand still and to stand for all the other moments, whatever they would be or might have been. What life can recover from that?

I had something to tell her now. "l see you," I said.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
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Girl Interrupted at Her Music (painting by Vermeer) Symbol Timeline in Girl, Interrupted

The timeline below shows where the symbol Girl Interrupted at Her Music (painting by Vermeer) appears in Girl, Interrupted. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 21: Keepers
Isolation and Seclusion Theme Icon
Women and Medicine Theme Icon
Manipulation, Restriction, and Control Theme Icon
...young women.  When Susanna attempts to describe her visit to the Frick to see the Vermeer in one of her sessions with Dr. Wick, Dr. Wick is shocked by Susanna’s description... (full context)
Chapter 34: Girl, Interrupted
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
...She was so enamored with her teacher that she didn’t notice two of the three Vermeer paintings there. However, as she walked past a painting featuring a “girl look[ing] out, ignoring... (full context)
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
...them arrive at the museum, Susanna instantly recalls having been there before and remembers the painting she “love[d]” in high school. Susanna bee-lines for the painting of the girl with her... (full context)
Isolation and Seclusion Theme Icon
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
The girl in the painting is no longer urgent, just sad. She is looking out, hoping that someone will see... (full context)
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Women and Medicine Theme Icon
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
...that visit she has gone back to the Frick many times to look at the painting of the girl, as well as the other two works by Vermeer collected there. The... (full context)