You are on page 1of 2

The ending of shutter Island seems ambiguous but to me it was pretty clear-cut.

Teddy wakes up to the


reality that he is actually Andrew Laedis, though he is warned by Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan that he has
regresses into his fantasy world before. However, Andrew is smart. When Dr. Sheehan sits with him on
the steps that next morning, Andrew knows that the doctors and Warden are observing his behavior. The
thing is, his guilt and pain are still so heavy that he knows he cannot live with them. Rather than live with
the knowledge of his pain, he chooses to pretend that he is still Teddy Daniels and let them lobotomize
him, so that he can finally be free of his burden. That’s what the line to Dr. Sheehan about “living as a
monster, or dying as a good man,’ means – Andrew would rather be mind-wiped as “Teddy Daniels” than
live with the sins of Andrew Laeddis. Although little information is available to analyze Teddy based on
his childhood he can be examined on many other elements of Sigmund Freud’s theories about the
unconscious. While he is living in his fantasy life as an investigator on the island, his unconscious
thoughts often appear in his dreams. He sees his wife come to him begging him to give up on his quest
for Andrew because he will not like what he finds out and she doesn’t want him to get hurt. He also
dreams of Rachel Solando coming to him with her children’s bloody bodies, asking him to assist her in
disposing of them. As he holds the children’s bodies they come alive asking why he didn’t save them.
This perfectly illustrates the psychoanalytic theory that dreams have two levels of content.

The manifest content is that Teddy thinks the dreams come from the fact that he is missing his wife and
just can’t accept her death and let her go and that the macabre feeling of the island is getting to him
causing him to have nightmares of the insane woman he is investigating. It is later clear that the latent
content of the dreams reveal the hidden meaning of his own experiences. In other words, there was no
Rachel Solando. Teddy created her as a reflection of himself because Dolores was a manic depressive
who drowned their children in a lake one day when he wasn’t home. When he returned and realized the
tragic happenings there was nothing he could do, hence the nightmares of the children inquiring as to
why he couldn’t save them. In his dreams she often walks to him soaking wet to which he asks her “Why
are you all wet, baby?”. This phrase seems to haunt him because those are the first words he said to her
when he came home that day she went crazy. Teddy feels personally responsible for their death because
at the time he was an alcoholic and while he loved his wife, he refused to see her for who she really was
and ended up killing her after discovering the children. In the dreams she tells him to give up because he
is unable to cope with knowing the truth. This leads on to how Teddy distorts his reality to protect
himself against his unbearable pain and guilt through the use of defense mechanisms.

All of the memories of what really happened to Dolores and the children become repressed and
replaced with false illusions that his wife was wrongfully murdered and he re-created himself as a hero in
order to cope. In accordance with this mechanism he suffers from post traumatic stress from which the
disturbing memories indirectly begin to reveal themselves in his dreams. Dr. Sheehan who in his mind
was his partner reveals that for they had decided to try an elaborate role-playing experiment in which
they went along with all of Teddy (Andrew)’s delusions in an attempt to bring his mind back to the real
world and thus save him from a brain lobotomy (a form of psychosurgery) which was forced to be their
last resort. When the truth is first revealed Teddy’s initial reaction is to resort to the defense mechanism
of denial. He refuses to accept that what they claim is what really happened and is insistent upon the
fact that they have been dosing him with drugs in order to brainwash him and keep him from discovering
the truth about the gruesome human experiments that have been taking place at the hospital.
Projection is also used when he accuses the Doctor’s of making up this story about what happened to
him in order to protect themselves. These are both attempts to rid his mind of the anxiety provoking
stimuli that he is unable to accept has any association with what happened in his life.

Even before the truth is revealed while Teddy still believes that he is a hero we see this anxiety shining
through during his investigation at Shutter Island. When the hospital’s main psychologist makes a
comment about Teddy refraining from alcohol and Teddy responds with a witty attack the doctor notes
his “excellent use of defense mechanisms”. This may relate to his implicit memory because although
Teddy at first does not have any suspicions about the realism of his own identity he seems to think that
everyone else is out to get him which serves as unconscious memories influencing conscious behavior
causing him to constantly be on defense about the intentions and actions of the people around him.
When Teddy finally comes out of his stage of denial and accepts the truth, the doctors fear that he will
relapse and go back into repression. It was noted that this had happened before with their other
attempts to cure him. Teddy fakes falling back into that stage in order to save himself his dignity, he
reveals his intentions by saying “which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die a good man?”. This
lets us know that Dr. Sheehan’s cure proved effective, but Teddy would rather not live in that state of
misery or try to move on with his life knowing the shocking truth. Teddy Daniels also known as Andrew
Laeddis is an extremely interesting character to study in terms of personality.

Before his marriage to Dolores he probably could have been analyzed for completely different attributes;
however the events in his life served as strong situational factors to shape the person he would turn into.
Before it is realized that he is actually one of the criminally insane prisoners, Teddy could be described as
smart, witty and independent. He stands up for himself even when he suspects that the majority of the
island is involved with the conspiracy. After realizing the truth behind all of his actions it is clear that his
life is relatable to many of Freud’s theories which are all used to aid him in “distorting reality to protect
him against pain or threatening impulses arising from the id”. It is also very interesting that in his
alternate reality he views himself as a good, innocent person who is looking to set bad things right. This
could come from his unconscious knowledge that he committed a violent crime and wants to take all of
the blame off himself by portraying himself as a hero. The warden of Ashecliffe Hospital makes an
interesting point of reference to the dark side of Teddy’s personality and human nature in general by
telling him “You’re as violent as they come. I know because I am as violent as they come. Don’t
embarrass yourself by denying your own blood lust, son. Don’t embarrass me. If the constraints of
society were removed, and I was all that stood between you and a meal, you’d crack my skull with a rock
and eat my meaty parts”. Teddy killed his wife because he felt that after what she had done, it was the
right thing to do and his alternate personality serves as a cover-up because he “should” feel guilty that
the type of violence isn’t acceptable, no matter what Dolores had done to deserve it.