Which would be worse, to live as a monster? Or to die as a good man? (Shutter Island)
Shutter Island takes place in and around Ashecliffe Hospital in 1954. Ashecliffe is an
institution for the criminally insane. The film opens on a ferry transporting U.S Federal Marshal
Teddy Daniels played by Leonardo DiCaprio and his new partner Chuck Aule played by Mark
Ruffalo. They are sent to Shutter Island to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Rachel
Solando played by Patricia Clarkson who has somehow escaped from her cell. While on the
Island. Teddy Daniels starts being haunted by hallucinations of his wife, Dolores played by
Michelle Williams who is in his dreams, giving him directions. Once the missing patient
reappears halfway through the film it becomes apparent that Daniel is there to uncover a bigger
plot. Daniels at that point tries to uncover secret, experimental surgeries forced on the patients in
an old lighthouse near Ashecliffe. By the end of the movie it is learned that Daniels is the one
being treated. (Shutter Island) It was not until the last minutes of the movie that it becomes
clear what are the psychotic delusions, hallucinations, disorganization and cognitive impairment
Denials is facing.(Beckmann 4 67)
Daniels exhibits symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) throughout the
film. PTSD is an anxiety disorder characterized by haunting memories, nightmares, social
withdrawal, jumpy anxiety, and insomnia that lingers for four weeks or more after a traumatic
experience. (Myers, 573) This was evident from his flash back memories from when he was in
the WWll and the concentration camp, where he participated in a massacre of guards. There was
one scene that he actually watch a Nazis slowly die. (Shutter Island) Daniels has a dislike for
Germans also. This can be seen when Dr. Jeremiah Nearing, played by Max Von Sydow was
talking to Daniels and recognized his accent, Daniels becomes nasty toward him, sparking Dr.
Naehring to comment that Denial has “excellent defense mechanisms.” (Shutter Island)
According to the DSM-lV-TR a person can be high functioning cognitively, socially and
emotionally and not only suffer from delusions (fixed, adamant beliefs that run contrary to clear,
consensual evidence) but experience such a state without mental problem. As the DSM-IV
further classifies Delusional Disorder via content of the delusion. (178) Daniels delusion is that
he is U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, investigating a disappearance on the Island. He also meets
people on Shutter Island who are not real, like Dr. Rachel Solando. He exspernces grandiose
delusions because he believes he is a U.S. Marshal with a special mission. First to find a missing
woman and second to uncover a secret government operation.(Shutter Island) According to
DSM-IV-TR, in order for someone to be diagnosed with Delusional Disorder, they must have no
bizarre delusions, or not have schizophrenia, be able to function normally with relatively normal
behaviors, have short, if any, mood episodes, and not be taking any substance which causes a
direct physiological effects of a delusion.(178) Delusions are false beliefs often of persecution
or grandeur that may accompany psychotic disorders. (Myers, 590) Delusional Disorder includes
delusions that the person or someone to whom the person is close is being malevolently treated
in some way. (DSM-IV-TR, 329) Daniels experiences persecutory delusions when he believes
that the doctors at Ashecliffe are lying to him and experimenting on patients and when he
believes that the doctors have taken Chuck away to the lighthouse to operate on him at the end.
It also comes out in the movie that Daniels has a drinking problem and is a work-aholic.
At the end of the movies we learn that Daniels wife Dolores was,...
Cited: Shutter Island. Dir. Martin Scorsese. Paramount Home Entertainment, 2010. DVD.
Beckmann, Klaus Martin. "Shutter Island." Australasian Psychiatry 18.5 (2010): 467. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000. Print.
Manschreck, Theo C., and Nealia L. Khan. "Recent Advances In The Treatment Of Delusional Disorder." Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry 51.2 (2006): 114-119. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.
Myers, David G. Myers’ Psychology for AP. New York, NY: Worth, 2011. Print.
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