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Written by Jody Perry
Cawley, behind them, placed a record on the phonograph and the scratch of the needle was followed by stray pops and hisses that reminded him of the phones he'd tried to use. Then a balm of strings and piano replaced the hisses. Something classical, Teddy knew that. Prussian. Reminding him of cafes overseas and a record collection he'd seen in the office of a sub-commandant at Dachau, the man listening to it when he'd shot himself in the mouth.
This quote is important as it shows a great deal about both Teddy and Dr Cawley. It illustrates how much horror and death Teddy has seen and also that his experience liberating the concentration camp at Dachau has stayed with him as if it happened yesterday. It shows that Dr Cawley is not far removed in his experimental psychiatry and obsession with violence makes him similar to the Nazi doctors who experimented on prisoners for the sake of experimenting, viewing his science to have more importance than the welfare of people. The quote also highlights the juxtaposition of appreciation for beauty and the ability to create horror, both the doctor and the commandant taking pleasure in the beauty of classical music.
At Dachau, the SS guards surrendered to us. Five hundred of them. Now there were reporters there, but they'd seen all the bodies piles up at the train station too. They could smell exactly what we were smelling. They looked at us and they wanted us to do what we did. And we sure as hell wanted to do it. So we executed every one of those fucking Krauts. Disarmed them, leaned them against walls, executed them.
Teddy is explaining to Chuck why he decided that he would only kill in self-defense, having felt remorse for executing the Nazi guards at Dachau despite having been driven to it by what he could see and smell, and the knowledge that anyone would do the same. The statement also brings up the philosophical point that runs throughout the novel, which is whether the public at large would feel sorry for the prisoners at Shutter Island given the heinous and graphically horrific crimes they had committed.
If you are deemed insane, then all actions that would otherwise prove that you do not, in actuality, fall into the framework of an insane person's actions. Your sound protests constitute denial. Your valid fears are deemed paranoia. Your survival instincts are labelled defense mechanisms. It's a no-win situation.
The female doctor has summed up the problem that Teddy appears to be having in proving his sanity to Dr Cawley, and is also explaining how the directors of Shutter Island are able to neutralize anyone who proves to be a threat to their operation, for example, George Noyce who spoke up about their practices was transferred back to Shutter Island where his fears were deemed paranoia and his accusations deemed hallucinations.
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