Filtering Reality: The Ether of An Era

What is interesting to note is that unlike the film version, Girl, Interrupted is more like looking through a scrapbook. What is also interesting to note is that this story takes place in one of the most infamous mental institutions, McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. This institution was no stranger to some infamous patients. Among them, a Nobel Prize winning mathematician, who had his own story also turned into an Oscar winning film. A blind African-American, Grammy winning Blues and Rhythm singer. And another American author, who wrote some of the most compelling poetic prose ever done and is remembered as having helped to inspire an entire generation of feminist. Apparently they must be doing something right!

What is also fascinating to note, is that Susanna Kaysen’s stay at this hospital occurred in the period from 1967-1968. It began on the eve of the so-called Summer of Love, and ended just before the end of the Year of Hate. And she was just 19 years old. What makes this particularly fascinating is that America seemed to be on a borderline between an old way of life and a new wave of changes that would define and determine the direction and course of affairs in society. The early 1960’s were marked by a sense of great optimism and hope. Their was a genuine sense among the people of America, particularly the youth, that they could change the world. With various events, specifically assassinations, such as President Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, by the late 60’s the cultural atmosphere had become saturated with a deep sense of disillusionment and uncertainty. So much so in fact that people seemed to be left twisting in the whirlwind. And the key question on everyone’s mind was, “What is happening to America?”

In a rather poetic sense, within this one woman’s story we see, not only the story of a place with a colorfully collected cast of characters, but, and perhaps even more importantly, we see the story of this historic intersection between where we were and where we were heading as a society. All of the dynamics and dialectic within society and many of its public and civic institutions were shifting in ways, and with a level of intensity, that most of society had never even considered before. Much like what Susanna was going through at that stage of life when she, like all of us, began to question, ponder, and explore the deeper dimensions and unexplored possibilities of existence. And as they say at the opening of the film: ” Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the 60s. Or maybe I was just a girl… interrupted.” Who can say?

The following article I thought seemed appropriate to this story:

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