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
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.