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Borderline Personality Disorder: Meursault Vs. Susanna Kaysen

1165 words - 5 pages

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, borderline personality disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self- image, and behavior. “Girl, Interrupted”, a film directed by James Mangold, is based on the true story of borderline- inflicted Susanna Kaysen. Susanna has been admitted into a mental institution after an attempted suicide. Although she does not acknowledge her illness, she agrees to treatment at Claymoore to “get some rest”. The Stranger, written by Albert Camus, tells the story of a psychologically detached figure named Meursault. Mersault’s indifferent attitude towards all aspects of life makes ...view middle of the document...

When she leaves for Claymoore, her parents arrange a cab to make the transition “less emotional”. Although Susanna is fully aware that her own family is overtaxed by her peculiar attitude towards life, she understands. She does not expect anything more of them. Likewise, when the judge asks Meursault if the decision to put his mother in a home tormented him, Meursault explains that both he and his mother did not expect anything from each other anymore.
Impulsive behavior is a common characteristic of borderline personality disorder. The viewer is never given an explanation regarding why Susanna attempted suicide, but she steadily denies the accusation during her treatment. When she is first referred to Claymoore by a doctor, he reminds her that she chased a bottle of aspirin with vodka four days prior. Her response is, “I had a headache”. When he is put on trial, Meursault denies having returned to the beach with the intention of killing the Arab. When the judge asks him to clarify his motivation for the crime, Meursault answers that he did it “because of the sun” (103). Susanna and Meursault’s impulsiveness is also seen in their desire for immediate pleasure. When Susanna obtains a doctor’s file including her mental evaluation, it suggests that she is “uncertain about goals” and engages in “impulsive activities that are self-damaging such as casual sex”. Before treatment at Claymoore, Susanna was fairly promiscuous. She had indiscriminate sexual relations, even with married men. She defends herself by asking the question, “What kind of sex isn’t casual”? Correspondingly, Meursault is not particularly selective when choosing sexual partners. Meursault runs into Marie Cardona, a former co-worker of his, the day after his mother’s death. He admires her beauty, and she eventually spends the night with him. Meursault’s relationship with Marie is purely based on physical attraction.
Unresponsiveness toward convention could also be a result of borderline personality disorder. In the beginning of the film, the viewer learns that Susanna falls asleep at her own graduation. Likewise, Meursault finds the atmosphere in the mortuary pleasant and dozes off during his mother’s vigil. Both events, supposedly paramount to the life of any person, mean nothing to either of these individuals. This unresponsiveness is also represented by their disinterest in professional endeavors. When Meursault’s boss offers him a position in a new office in Paris, Meursault replies that it is...

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