Within McLean: Quotes from Girl Interrupted

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by sautel2
Last updated 4 years ago

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Within McLean: Quotes from Girl Interrupted

“Freeing it from its little white dome, pressing until the blood ran, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I’d done all that could be done for this pimple” (7).

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“Actually, it was only part of myself I wanted to kill: the part that wanted to kill herself” (37)

“What is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?” (48)

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“By the time we hit the street they were silent and closed in on us, and they had assumed the Nonchalant Look, an expression that said, I am not a nurse escorting six lunatics to the ice cream parlor” (51).

“Which is worse, overload or underload? Luckily I never had to choose. One or the other would assert itself, rush or dribble through me, and pass on” (78).

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“Recovered. Had my personality crossed over that border, whatever and wherever it was, to resume life within the confines of the normal?” (154).

“I was like an anchorite with a hair shirt. Part of the point was that nobody knew about my suffering” (153)

“‘It’s my time!’ I yelled. ‘It’s my time and I need to know how much it was.’The dentist rolled his eyes. ‘I’ll let you handle this,’” (109)

“We looked at him, a tiny, dark man in chains on our TV screen with the one thing we would always lack: credibility” (93).

“[Digital watches] murdered time in the same way---slowly---chopping off pieces of it and lobbing them into the dustbin with a little click to let you know time was gone” (54).

“The tongue, now, every cell of the tongue, is enormous. It’s a vast foreign object in your mouth” (76).

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When Kaysen asks herself if she's truly recovered, she wonders what "normal" is and who in the world can truly define it. The song "Who's Crazy," from the musical Next to Normal, depicts a husband's struggle to understand his mentally ill wife relative to himself.

“The seclusion room was supposed to be soundproof. It wasn’t… Yelling in the TV room or the hall was “acting out” and was not a good idea. But yelling in the seclusion room was fine” (46).

Kaysen points out how society isolates and marginalizes stigmatized and misunderstood populations. Instead of finding a way to fix their issues, society counterintuitively places them out of sight as they continue to struggle.

Kaysen's metaphor depicts her "saving" a pimple by relieving its tension; it's a painful and invasive process, but her action and engagement with something ugly and unnatural leads to her "sense of accomplishment" and the "freedom" of the pimple. In Queen's performance of I Want to Break Free, the lyrics reflect the same theme of escape but also, their engagement with the audience, a collection of varied individuals, demonstrates how one person's initiative (Freddy Mercury's performance) can inspire others to participate.

“Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco” (6)

Kaysen's metaphor highlights how she values her time and fears it's being wasted at McLean. It reveals a universal human concern of living a full life within the time they have. Fiveam's "Clock Ticking" uses an EDM beat and crescendos to evoke Kaysen's concern and demonstrate the tension and weight of being aware of every second that passes.

“She had wrapped all the furniture, some of it holding catatonics, and the TV and the sprinkler system in toilet paper. Yards and yards of it floated and dangled, bunched and draped on everything, everywhere. It was magnificent” (24)

Kaysen ironically depicts the tongue as an obstruction though it is crucial to speech. Out of place yet crucial, it parallels her own confused mental state and how her metacognition and awareness led to her writing her autobiography. Considering her description, does the tongue shown look normal anymore?

In this passage, Kaysen's lack of control over her life is depicted in a way that is universally relatable. Since everyone cycles between overload and underload, it's an instance where readers can instantly relate to her.

Kaysen points out the stigma attached to the mentally ill; "normal" people want to see themselves as separate from the mentally ill and want to be confident in their normalcy (in this case, the nurses affirm their roles to set them apart). It unfairly dehumanizes the isolated party. Matchbox 20's song, "Unwell," illustrates the internal reaction to being isolated for being different or ill like the patients in the novel. The singer insists, "I'm not crazy," in order to be accepted; since the proclaimation isn't entirely honest or authentic, it doesn't move him towards self-betterment or getting the help he needs.

“I’m the Angel of Death. This thought has a flittering expanse of panic behind it, which is unreachable. Viscosity flattens the effervescence of panic” (77-78)

Bobby Seale, the National Chairman of the Black Panthers, was bound, gagged, and denied a voice in a 1969 trial (onthisdeity.com). The image offers a degree of catharsis to the patients, but it also reminds them that they are sealed off from the world, unseen, and ultimately voiceless.

“She had wrapped all the furniture, some of it holding catatonics, and the TV and the sprinkler system in toilet paper. Yards and yards of it floated and dangled, bunched and draped on everything, everywhere. It was magnificent” (24).

In this instance, a patient (Lisa) has effectively taken control of the facility and utilized something as simple as toilet paper to create a "magnificent" image. Kaysen's strange appreciation reminds readers of the value of seeing the world from another's perspective.

“Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco” (6)

“Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco” (6).

Anyone in prison is accutely aware that there is a world outside carrying on without them. The picture explores Kaysen's use of pathos by showing Alcatraz and its isolated distance from San Francisco.

“I’m the Angel of Death. This thought has a flittering expanse of panic behind it, which is unreachable. Viscosity flattens the effervescence of panic” (77-78).

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“I was like an anchorite with a hair shirt. Part of the point was that nobody knew about my suffering” (153)

“I was like an anchorite with a hair shirt. Part of the point was that nobody knew about my suffering” (153).

I've often felt like a hermit when internalizing my struggles and further frustrating myself by not sharing them with anyone. By internalizing, I was adding an additional layer of isolation. Like Kaysen's autobiography shows, there's a tremendous value and potential catharsis in demonstrating one's voice and revealing one's perspective to the world.

“‘It’s my time!’ I yelled. ‘It’s my time and I need to know how much it was.’The dentist rolled his eyes. ‘I’ll let you handle this,’” (109)

“‘It’s my time!’ I yelled. ‘It’s my time and I need to know how much it was.’The dentist rolled his eyes. ‘I’ll let you handle this,’” (109).

There have been many times where I've felt so attached to an idea or object and felt like no one else understood my fixation or fascination. Kaysen's valuation of time and the dentist's flippant dismissal point to the necessity for a greater social empathy. It's not so much that the denist misunderstands her, it's that he does not even try to understand her.

“Actually, it was only part of myself I wanted to kill: the part that wanted to kill herself” (37)

“Actually, it was only part of myself I wanted to kill: the part that wanted to kill herself” (37).

When I falter or doubt myself, I become my greatest enemy like Kaysen's "Angel of Death." My negative reflection slows me down as Kaysen notes; I'm not panicking as much as struggling to wade through and organize countless thoughts and emotions.

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I constantly seek to better myself; in doing so, I'm constantly aware of my flaws and often feel as if I'm tearing away parts of myself to be the person I ideally strive to be. The truth is, as Kayson sees in her autobiography, one really needs to accept themselves as they are. Doing so leads to productive introspection and meaningful metacognition.

“What is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?” (48)

“What is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?” (48).

As a musician, I often strive to be perfect. Perfection is so elusive, yet I always feel as if I know precisely what it sounds like and that I can attain it if I simply try harder. Such a pursuit, surrounded by the repetition needed to build muscle memory, can drive a person mad.

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