Susanna Kaysen from Girl Interrupted

Topics: Psychology, Sociology, Borderline personality disorder Pages: 6 (2095 words) Published: November 4, 2013
Character Analysis – Susanna Kaysen from
Girl Interrupted

This character analysis is based on the character, Susanna Kaysen (played by Winona Ryder), from the feature film ‘Girl Interrupted’ directed by James Mangold and distributed by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. in 1999, Rated MA15+. The film is based on the true story of Susanna Kaysen’s time in a mental institution, set in the 1960s. Exploring Susanna Kaysen’s character through an interactional viewpoint, many psychological concepts can be applied to analyse her condition.

In addition, a critical evaluation of applying behavioral and social science knowledge in the profession of social work will also be explored to appreciate the .

Susanna Kaysen is an eighteen year old that has been placed in a mental hospital ‘Claymoore’ after an attempted suicide. However, Susana is in denial of attempting suicide and claims that she drank the bottle of aspirin and bottle of vodka to cure her head ache. The purpose of Susana’s short stay at the hospital was ‘to get genuine rest’ as mentioned by the psychiatrist that she meets in courtesy of her parents. Susana is diagnosed with a ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ as she is manifested by uncertainty about her self image, long term goals, types of lovers and friends to have and which values to adopt. At Claymoore Susana meets a group of unusual young women who eventually become her closest friends and as a result light her way back to something she had lost herself. She is intelligent and her goal after graduating was to write rather than go to college. As an understanding of Susana’s character there is actually nothing wrong with her. Susana is a typical teenager who refuses to conform to the life her parents want for her. However, after spending some time at Claymoore and seeing more than one psychiatrist she starts believing that there is something wrong with her, however does not know what exactly is wrong with her. The major changes for Susana are conforming, family, changing perspectives about the world and self.

Erikson saw conflict as the basic mechanism for development. Identity vs. role confusion is one of the eight stages that Erikson discusses. In this stage the adolescent’s task is to define a comprehensive sense of self, or identity, which incorporates the relics of past identifications and aligns the adolescent’s own unique attributes with the opportunities society offers (Peterson, 2006, p56). This can be related to Susanna as she is an adolescent who is searching for her own identity. Susana has a distinction of being the only senior of not going to college and the reason is because she plans to write. Susana mentions that she ‘does not want to end up like her mother’. Overall, Susana’s sexual orientation, careers, values and social networks are all aspects of her identity problems.

According to Bowlby (1969), “an attachment is a strong affectional tie that binds a person to an intimate companion.” As cited in (Kail & Wicks Nelson, 1993, p100) Sroufe & Fleeson, 1986 mention that “attachment is the first social relationship, and many theorists believe it is the prototype for most subsequent social relationships.” From a social perspective it is perceived that secure attachment which involves trust in the caregiver will lead into later confidence and skill in dealing with peers. By relating back to Susana it can be concluded that she has had an insecure attachment early in life. This is evident as she doesn’t really interact with her parents. For instance on her father’s birthday she comes late and then spends her time in her room rather than celebrating with her family. Also when she was taken to Claymoore, her mother was just sitting in the car watching her getting into the taxi. There was no emotional bonding present in that particular situation. As cited in (Santrock, 2004, p.351) Ainsworth believes that “secure attachment in the first year of life provides an important foundation...
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