Shutter Island Themes

Shutter Island Themes

Mental Illness

The central theme of the novel is mental illness, specifically illness that involved psychopathy and the criminally insane. Each of the characters is either a psychiatrist or a patient, but even the doctors seem to suffer from some kind of psychological disorder, such as Dr Cawley who is obsessed with his theory that all people are violent at their core. Teddy, the main character, is said to be delusional and the patients have varying degrees of psychopathy, for example, Vincent Gryce, who scalped this family and wore the tops of their heads as hats. There is also an assertion in the book that a person can be driven insane given the right combination of drugs and the correct set of circumstances.

Conspiracy Theories

Another theme that is revisited many times throughout the novel is conspiracy theories. George Noyes, a prisoner, had talked about illicit experiments and abusive treatment of patients at Shutter Island and Teddy bought into these. It is apparent that it would be very easy for the authorities to cover up any illicit activity by claiming the accuser was delusional or paranoid. The theme is so well employed that at the end of the novel the reader cannot tell whether Teddy really is Andrew Laeddis or whether we are also being fooled by a conspiracy theory made up to make him look insane and delusional.

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