Both the book and the movie titled “Girl, Interrupted” tell the story of a young girl who is declared mentally ill in the late nineteen-sixties. The young girl, Susanna Kaysen, is diagnosed as borderline personality and sent to a mental hospital shortly after her high school graduation. While all of the other girls from her graduating class went on to college, Susanna had no major plans for her future but hoped to be a writer. The book tells the true story of her ordeal and the movie is based on the book. The two are very similar but have some small inconsistencies.
The first major difference that I noticed between the book and the movie was the description of the nurse Valerie. Valerie was one of the head nurses in the mental hospital, one of the few workers in the hospital trusted by the patients. In the book Valerie is described as tall and skinny with fine and fair hair. In the film Valerie’s character was played by Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi is medium height, of healthy stature with dark skin. Both characters acted very professionally and had compassion and understanding towards the patients. While the two characters had similar personalities, their physical appearance differed immensely.
The second major discrepancy between the book and the movie occurs with the ending. In the film Susanna makes a fairly rapid recovery. Upon returning to the hospital after seeing her friend Daisy hang herself Susanna gains a strong desire to recover. She starts seeing Dr. Wick, slowly begins to recover, and eventually she is released from McLean Mental Hospital. In the book Susanna’s release comes rather suddenly as the result of a marriage proposal. Apparently a marriage proposal meant she was cured and free to go back into the world. One must wonder about the changing values and social norms between the sixties and today.
The difference between the two endings shows how social norms have changed since the time of the book to when the movie was released. Back in the late sixties woman were not as independent as they are today. When a woman like Susanna attempted to be independent she was considered to be defective. They were not expected to become great writers or important people, but rather women were expected to become good wives and mothers. Susanna clashed with the social norms when she refused to work as a dental technician or typist. Since she refused to conform to the ideal women’s job, the only other way she could be let out was apparently through a marriage proposal. Today it is more acceptable for women to have a strong career choice. Also if they choose to remain single they are certainly not considered mentally ill. The ending of the movie was changed to fit today’s culture. Presently it would seem absurd for a woman to spend two years in a psychiatric hospital only to be let out because of a simple marriage proposal. The two different endings describe two different cultures and their perceptions of normal.