Shutter Island recounts the tale of Andrew Laeddis, a veteran of World War II who believes he is a U.S. marshal. His mission is to investigate a missing patient at Ashecliffe mental hospital in Shutter Island, Boston. Along his journey, Andrew faces numerous challenges related to deviance, illness, and intelligence. However, it is later revealed that Andrew ended up at Ashecliffe because he killed his wife. She had drowned their three children in the lake behind their house and despite knowing about her mental illness, Andrew failed to seek appropriate help for her. Thus, he blames himself for the death of their children and assumes the identity of U.S Marshal Teddy Daniels as a way to distance himself from this past and what he has done. Consequently, while it was not Andrew’s own deviant behavior that led him to Ashecliffe, it was ultimately his wife’s actions that landed him there.
Murder, regardless of the circumstances, defies societal norms and typically results in some form of punishment. At Ashecliffe, all the people surrounding Teddy Daniels were deviants, mostly murderers, and their influence shaped his identity. Perhaps Andrew Laeddis refrained from seeking help for his wife Dolores due to the negative stigma associated with mental illness. Dolores believed she had a brain bug, and Andrew’s awareness of this may have ultimately led to the tragic demise of their three children. Andrew constructed an alternate reality where he could evade guilt, stating he would rather “die a good man than live as a monster.” While ultimately a consequence of mental illness, Andrew’s understanding helped him cope with the trauma he had experienced.
His doctors crafted a role play to assist him in recognizing the truth, but soon after, he experienced a setback, possibly due to the overwhelming difficulties of reality. Shutter Island tackles numerous social issues, including deviance, illness, and knowledge, magnifying these concerns through Andrew Laeddis’ narrative.