Boundary Crossing of Sanity and Insanity Chin Chang, Christina Chen

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Boundary Crossing of Sanity and Insanity

  • Chin Chang, Christina Chen

  • Zaes Chen, Linda Chien


  • Film: Girl, Interrupted directed by James Mangold (released in 1999)

  • Based on Girl, Interrupted written by Susanna Kaysen

  • (1967 McLean, 2 yrs)

  • Title: from the painting Girl, Interrupted at her music by Johannes Vemeer


  • Sent to Claymoore and diagnosed as BPD (borderline personality disorder), Susanna started her journey of self-discovery with friends she met there. The question remains “Is she sane or insane?”

Sane or Insane? (Susanna Kaysen)

  • (monologue)

  • “Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the 60's. Or maybe I was just a girl... interrupted.”

Sane or Insane? (Susanna)

Sane or Insane? (Daisy)

Sane or Insane? (Lisa Rowe)

Sane or Insane? (Georgina Tuskin)

Sane or Insane? (Polly Clark)

  • Diagnosis: Unspecified

  • Symptom: Refuse to grow up

  • Possible Cause: Childhood trauma

  • Innocent?

  • Curious about sex trigger her memory

  • Susanna: “sweetness and purity aren’t genuine at all, but a desperately attempt to make it easier for us to look at her”


  • Susanna: family  Lisa  Independence

  • Lisa: institution; others’ dependence.

  • Daisy: med; chicken; her father.

  • Polly: doll; Ruby

  • Georgina: Lisa

Social Backgrounds

  • 50s -- relatively conservative

  •  “viewed their children's world with alarm and confusion and embraced few of the cultural changes.”

  • 60s – Peace, love and sex.

  • -- Anti-war  hippy

  • -- Rise of feminism

  • 70s  Conservative

Social Influences

  • Female having many opportunities?

  • Pro.’s wife: “Women should make up their mind.”

  • Teacher: “What do you plan to do?”

  • “Women nowadays have more choices.”, S: “No they don’t.”

  • Susanna is forced to make a choice.

  • Bias on females:

  • Definition of “promiscuity”

  • Education



  • Hospitalization:

  • Necessity?  Susanna

  • Admission  Voluntary? Right to leave?

  • Discharge qualification?  Daisy

  • (Pretending: “Purple people”)

  • Standardized management:

  • (medicine administration, name calling, room checks, indifferent attitude and R area.)


  • Counseling:

  • (“The-rapist,” “their-rape-me,”

  • “diag-non-sense,”

  • criticizing Freudian therapy.)

  • Dr. Melvin: unsuccessful, without understanding patients.

  • Dr. Wick: understanding, insightful, professional

Alternative Treatment

  • Interpersonal bonds:

  • Nurse Valerie

  • Sisterhood (Tunnel, Ice Cream Shop, Guitar)

  •  Lisa (leader / violence)

  • Others

  • Ruby

  • Music

  • Exercise

  • Narrative therapy

Turning Points (Susanna)

  • Toby’s visit: Susanna decides to stay

  • (Sisterhood / Toby is not the one)

  • Runaway with Lisa / Returning:

  • Start to realize: either fit into the society or self-destruction

  • (“Jamie” / Daisy’s death / Lisa’s cruelty)

  • Valerie: Susanna learns to “put it away”

  • 2nd Tunnel: “Press others’ buttons”


  • Definition of madness:

  • Matter of degree. (blurring boundary)

  • Social standard: majority = norm.

  • Self realization (Wizard of Oz)

  • (One drives oneself crazy.)

  • Self limitation

  • (biological, genetic, environment)

  • “Fit in the fucked-up world”

Deleted Scenes in Film

  • More of Susanna’s hallucination

  • (blood flood in supermarket, boneless hands)

  •  more normal in the film

  • No museum scene  no explanation to the topic

  • Less coincidences  Film is more realistic

Fiction & Film

  • Going to Daisy’s house in film

  • Introduction Line: Fiction  self

  • Film  society

  • Georgina is under-developed in the film

  • Ending: Seeing Lisa on the street


  • Lisa & Daisy: pressed the button

  • Valerie “how it hurt smile”

  • Dr. Wick “ambivalence,” Dr. Melvin’s counseling


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