The mystery of what goes on in an insane person’s mind is and illusion which intrigues many. In Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island the author portrays the world of a mad man, through the protagonist Teddy Daniela. The author describes how the slightest craze can damage their minds permanently, and can turn them insane. In this novel Teddy’s compulsion with the lighthouse, constant violent thoughts, and migraines all symbolize his mental illness. Isolation from society alters one’s mind to the point where they can’t tell the difference between sanity and insanity.
Secrets can be the main source of one’s craziness. This can lead to a person’s actions to change dramatically, in a negative way. The mysterious lighthouse drove Teddy insane, and needed to uncover the secret behind it. Every time Teddy asked somebody about the lights house they would immediately change the topic. In the novel, Teddy would look towards the lighthouse asking himself what was going on inside it. Upon arriving at the island, Teddy did what he thought was right. He denied all everything his partner Chuck told him. For instance, when him and Chuck went to explore the island, they discovered the lighthouse and Teddy wanted to go inside the lighthouse, and didn’t care what Chuck thought. ‘”Where are you going?’ Chuck said. ‘Ashcliffe’s the other way.’ Teddy looked back at him. ‘I’m not going to Ashcliffe.’ Chuck looked annoyed maybe even frightened. ‘Then where the f*** are we going, Teddy?”‘ Teddy smiled. ‘The lighthouse Chuck” (Lehane 255″) In this quote Teddy shows how stubborn he is and that Teddy had to go to the lighthouse because it was driving him insane, because no one would tell him about the lighthouse. Teddy then decided to go to the lighthouse to find out what happens in there. Teddy’s obsession with the lighthouse has brought him to the edge of sanity. Furthermore, when Teddy was already at the lighthouse his insane mind was brought out once again. ‘”Gone as he climbed towards the lighthouse. But he could hear he. In his brain she was sayin ‘Go on. You can live again. Just find out what lies behind that door.”‘ (Lehane 266). In this quote Teddy’s insanity is shown by when his wife is controlling his mind even though she has died. His wife talking was a result if his insanity. Normally ones conscious would not allow them to defy the rules, however since this job is done by his dead wife, this shows that Teddy’s mental stability is unbalanced. Even though Teddy was strictly told not to go in the lighthouse, he still went in the lighthouse and continued his adventure to uncover the secrets behind the lighthouse. “‘For a full minute Teddy stood there, staring into the dark, and then he heard the bedsprings again as Noyce lay down. He turned towards the stairs. ‘Hey’ He stopped, and turned around. ‘God help you”‘(Lehane 271). In this quote Noyce’s commented “God help you”, shows how inappropriate Teddy’s actions were by trespassing into the lighthouse. Teddy had to go into the lighthouse because the secrets hidden within the walls of the lighthouse were driving him crazy. The lighthouse is a symbol of Teddy’s craziness.
Next, when someone keeps thoughts to themselves, it may affect the decisions and actions that one makes. The actions a person commits can be regretful and devastating as a result of the thought they are having. The violent thoughts that Teddy possessed, drove him to become mentally unstable. These thoughts occurred when he was put to the test or had to make a decision. One example is when Teddy had to make a life and death decision. “Teddy could feel the weight of the gun. Even with the shakes, he had a chance if he took it now. Killed Cawley, killed whoever was waiting outside” (Lehane 339). In this quote, it proves that his mind is thinking to make a violent and fierce decision. The fact that Teddy even had the thought of killing Dr. Cawley, and the person outside shows that he is making an impulsive decision. Rather than attempting to negotiate, and think about all the consequences about what he is going to do, Teddy’s mind goes straight to murdering, which is a result of his mental instability. Another instance is when Teddy is standing behind a security guard and wants to kill him. “Teddy lifted the gun off the table and pointed it towards the man. He knew if he shot him dead center in the chest he would die. And run away while he had the chance” (Lehane 320). This quote proves that Teddy had the thought of shooting the man and killing him. Often people feel remorse or fear after murder, however Teddy’s response to him killing the guard shows he is not able to possess the ability to empathise, a feeling which has been suppressed by his madness. Furthermore, while trying to find the man Teddy has been looking for during his quest, his violent thoughts come out yet again. “Going to find you today, Andrew. If I don’t owe Dolores my life, I owe her that much, at least. Going to find you. Going to kill you dead” (Lehane 205). Driven by the fire of revenge, Teddy’s one wish is to murder Andrew Leaddis as he “owes her that much”. Rather than once again thinking about the decision, Teddy’s violent repeating thoughts of murder take over his mind, resulting in his instability. In summary, all of the violent thoughts that Teddy holds, slowly prove he is becoming mentally ill.
Lastly, when staying somewhere that is isolated from humans may draw negative thoughts to the brain. The constant migraines that Teddy received throughout the novel shows that there is something wrong with this mental stability. Teddy would often receive a migraine that would cause him to faint. In one part of the book Teddy woke up from his migraine and was surprised of what he saw. “‘Teddy took the glass and drained it in a few gulps. ‘How’s the head?’ Teddy remembered why he was in the room in the first place and took a few moments to take stock ‘I’m okay,’ he said. ‘Those were some pills.’ ‘We aim to please'” (Lehane 188). This quote proves how once Teddy recovered from his migraine, it took him time to remember how he got into the room. Also the pills that were given to him were very strong and they prove that he had to take heavy medicine his migraine would be cured. Teddy taking the medicine shows that his brain is slowly starting to deteriorate, just like how a mental patient would. Another time Teddy had a migrane was when he met with one of the patients, who alo suffered from migranes. “‘Cawley leaned against the desk in front of Teddy. ‘Migraine?’ Teddy looked up at the blur of him. He would have nodded, but past experience had taught him never to nod during one of these. ‘Yeah,’ he managed”‘ (Lehane 176). Once Teddy looked up at Dr. Cawley he saw a blur, showing the intensity of the migraine. Little by little Teddy’s brain would slowly start to turn in an insane persons mind, due to the power of the migraines and how often he got the migraines. Furthermore, when Teddy meets up with someone who has already experienced a migraine, he is surprised to find out what she says. “‘How’s your head?’ ‘My head?’ She chewed on her lower lip and nodded several times. ‘The block atop your neck, yes. How is it? Any funny dreams lately?’ ‘Sure.’ ‘Headaches?’ ‘I’m prone to migraines.’ ‘Jesus! You’re not!’ ‘I am'” (Lehane 273). The girl, Rachel’s, surprised response to Teddy’s migraines show they are not normal symptoms amongst the people on the island. However, his other responses to funny dreams and headaches were what she has expected, an approval. On the island, these symptoms, coupled with migraines are only possessed by those who are mentally unstable, hence Rachel’s surprise. This, therefore shows that the migraines Teddy suffers are a symbol of his insanity. In conclusion, all of the migraines that Teddy had throughout the novel show his mind slowly starting to deteriorate. The isolation from the sane gradually turned Teddy mentally insane.