Shutter Island Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Shutter Island Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Dachau as a Motif

The concentration camp at Dachau is referred to throughout the book and is a constant motif. Teddy was one of the soldiers involved in the liberation of the camp and seems to have been haunted ever since by images of the prisoners there. He makes a comparison between the expressionless eyes of the Dachau prisoners and the patients on Shutter Island and this is also a comparison between the brutal "experiments" carried out by the Nazis and the experimental treatment being given on the island. Dachau was a pivotal point in Teddy's life as after having participated in the shooting of SS guards who perpetrated the atrocities, he vowed to only kill in self defense moving forward.

Logs as a Symbol

The logs left on the beach by Rachel, and said by Dr Cawley to be seen in Teddy's nightmares, are a symbol of the three murdered children, either Rachel's or Teddy's. When Teddy saw the logs floating in the lake he did not immediately realize that they were not logs at all but the bodies of his children. Each time the logs are seen on the island they symbolize the children's bodies in the lake.

The Bad Sailor As A Metaphor

The bad sailor is a metaphor for being both a bad son and a bad parent. As a boy, Teddy was literally a bad sailor, suffering terrible sea sickness, which in turn made him think of himself as a bad son because he had not lived up to his father's expectations. He was a bad sailor as a parent in that he failed to protect his children from their mother's madness. Every time he sees the words "bad sailor" on his headstone in his nightmares he believes this will be what he is actually remembered for.

Rachel Salando as a Symbol

According to Dr Cawley's version of events, Rachel is a symbol of Teddy's wife Dolores Chanal. Not only is Rachel Salando's name an anagram of Dolores', but she is also symbolizing Dolores' crimes. Teddy is in able to come to terms with what his wife did so Rachel symbolizes her in his delusion.

Teddy's Nightmares as a Symbol

Teddy dreams that Dolores, his father, a soldier with whom he served by the name of Tootie Vicelli and Chuck are all together in a kitchen with their costs on hooks by the door. At the end of the dream Chuck takes his coat from the same hook that the other characters have done which Teddy believes is symbolic of the fact that Chuck, who is currently missing, is actually dead, as all of the characters in the dream are dead.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.