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Girl Interrupted Essay

2227 words - 9 pages

Susanna Kaysen is the author of Girl Interrupted, her memoirs that explore a two-year period that she spent as a patient in a mental institution for young women. Split into three sections, mind versus brain, the clinical definition of a borderline personality disorder, and her diagnosis, her memoirs serve as an argument against her clinical diagnosis. In "Mind vs. Brain" we are given a layman's introduction to psychology. Kaysen, through the use of various writing techniques, explains to the average reader what psychology is. Then, as a preface to her main argument, we are shown the different aspects of a borderline personality disorder and how one is diagnosed. Along with this scientific ...view middle of the document...

"I'm you're mind, you can't parse me into dendrites and synapses" (269). And with this statement, Kaysen personifies the human mind. Having a living breathing personality, the reader is able to draw a picture of it and see in a brighter light what she is explaining. She expands on this, explaining the interaction in the brain being that of two interpreters, one reporter and one news analyst. She turns the mind into a collection of conversations instead of a ball of gray matter. While this concept of gray matter is tangible, our minds can grasp the idea of constantly battling interpreters. She continues by providing the reader with a model of the conversation that occurs in the human mind.Interpreter One: There's a tiger in the corner.Interpreter Two: No, that's not a tiger - that's a bureau.Interpreter One: It's a tiger, it's a tiger!Interpreter Two: Don't be ridiculous. Let's go look at it.(270)The dialogue acts as a short play that the reader can act out in his/her mind. By creating this metaphor, Kaysen is able to portray to the reader what many psychology textbooks often fail at doing; She explains how the mind works on a simple level. She then juxtaposes this healthy model with one that is afflicted by mental illness. Simply, the reader learns what separates a healthy mind from an ill one. This approach to modeling the brain is effective because she stretches out her initial thesis on the mind to span her discussion of the mind and brain. It is effective because she doesn't begin her exploration by scaling the peaks of Everest. She traverses the foothills first, proceeds to hiking, and then begins her ascent of the mountain itself. Many scientific approaches to modeling the human mind begin at the top and evaluate its structure through soil composition, climate, biodiversity, and more. But, Kaysen starts at the roots and crawls slowly up through the branches, making sure not to jump or skip over any necessary parts.Next, she deals with the role of psychoanalysts in the field. She compares their work to reporting on a country they have never visited. This conclusion to her initial thesis is quite effective in summing up the information she presented on the mind and brain. Basically, she explains that you can never really understand what is going on in the mind of a mental patient without being in their shoes and experiencing it for yourself. "Psychoanalysts have been writing op-ed pieces about the workings of a country they've never traveled to," (272) is how Kaysen puts it. One could interpret her metaphor as pointing out that they are hypocrites, but it is more accurately a suggestion she puts forth; you can't understand mental illness fully without actually having been a member in its society. This is perhaps why Kaysen is able to describe the mind with such ease. The language and style employed by Susanna Kaysen in this literary work plays a profound role in convincing the reader of her beliefs.Kaysen's use of definition in this piece...

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