Shutter Island Literary Elements

Shutter Island Literary Elements


Crime Fiction

Setting and Context

Early 1950s, Shutter Island, tropical island off the American coast

Narrator and Point of View

Third party narrator telling the story from Teddy Daniels' point of view

Tone and Mood

Dark and threatening

Protagonist and Antagonist

Teddy is the protagonist, Dr Cawley the antagonist

Major Conflict

Conflict between Teddy and Cawley over whether he is Andrew Laeddis and whether he is actually a US Marshall and whose version of events is correct


Cawley tells Teddy that he is Andrew Llaeddis, the man he claims to be looking for


Teddy discovering that Chuck has gone missing foreshadows that he is now the only one on his side


The patients are said to be agitated which is a large understatement as they are all psychotic and in the top 1% of pathalogically dangerously mentally ill of the prison population


Teddy compares Chuck and himself to Stan and Olly, likening them to the comic duo Laurel and Hardy and putting himself in the role of sidekick


"An entire tree swept past the door, upside down, it's roots sprouting upward like horns" the speed if something as enormous as a tree flying by emphasizes the power of the storm and the threat to the safety of Chuck and Teddy, also suggesting the damage it will do to the landscape of the island.


Teddy is seeking Andrew Laeddis but paradoxically he cannot escape him because according to Dr Cawley he is Laeddis.


There is a parallel between the empty states of the prisoners liberated from Dachau and the over-medicated patients at Shutter Island

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The island was agitated - the island representative of the patients captive on it


The men joke that the tree that has been swept into the ocean will wake up in the middle of the night and say "Wait a second. This isn't right", giving the tree the power of thought and also the ability to sleep and wake up.

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