Shutter Island
Dennis Lehane
Contributed by Fernande Huls
Chapter 4

Having fallen asleep out of doors, Teddy has another nightmare about Andrew Laeddis, Rachel Solando, a young man he saw killed in the war, and his father. He overhears the warden giving instructions to keep him off the ferry at all costs.

Teddy lays low while the warden’s men fan out over the island. He begins to theorize about what might have happened to Chuck—that he has perhaps been killed, and that, when he is inevitably lobotomized to prevent him from talking about Ashecliffe, Chuck’s death will be given out as the event that tipped him over the edge.

The ferry arrives, and it is placed under guard. In order to distract the men, Teddy doubles back to Cawley’s house, removes the tie Dolores gave him, stuffs it into Cawley’s gas tank, and lights it. The car explodes, attracting the attention of men, and Teddy makes use of the diversion to leap into the water and hold on to the side of the boat in the freezing water.

The plan fails, however, when the warden gives orders to keep the ferry from leaving. The warden searches the ferry, but at that point, Teddy has decided to take off for the lighthouse, deciding that he has to save Chuck, after all that Chuck has done for him.

Teddy is able to disable a guard and take his rifle. He makes his way into the lighthouse, which is unguarded because of the explosion. He enters and discovers Dr. Cawley at a desk there, the walls covered with pink sheets. He repeats the words that Dolores had said to him in his dreams earlier: “Why you all wet, baby?”

Dr. Cawley invites Teddy to take a seat. At his desk, he has all of the clues that Teddy has gathered, including his notebook, and Laeddis’s intake form. Teddy’s rifle turns out to be empty. Through his desk radio, Dr. Cawley radios for Dr. Sheehan, who has been on the island the whole time. He speaks of Dr. Sheehan very warmly, and looks at Teddy with what Teddy realizes is compassion.

Teddy realizes that the lighthouse doesn’t seem to have any of what he expected it to have—doctors, operating tables. He also realizes that he is in anguish. Teddy bitterly accuses Cawley of dosing him with neuroleptics. But Cawley clarifies that what Teddy is actually experience is withdrawal from neuroleptics.

Dr. Cawley returns Teddy’s notebook to him and asks him to crack the last code. He reveals that Teddy has been taking the medication for the last two years—as a patient at Ashecliffe.

Teddy realizes that he is unable to remember anything about his life the day before—whether he drove to work, where he parked, where his apartment is. Cawley hands him Laeddis’s intake form. He notes that this is the document Teddy has been struggling for the whole time, and he hasn’t even bothered to look at it. The intake form describes a patient who is highly intelligent and delusional, who feels no remorse for his crime because he denies that it has happened.

At this point, Cawley removes the sheets, which have four names written in block letters: TEDDY DANIELS – ANDREW LAEDDIS ; RACHEL SOLANDO –DOLORES CHANAL. All four have thirteen letters, just like Rachel’s code; and each is an anagram for the other. Cawley reveals that he, Teddy, is Andrew Laeddis.

Teddy furiously denies it, but Dr. Cawley pleads with him. Because of Teddy’s military and police training and his deadliness, the other doctors, led by Dr. Naehring, think that he should be lobotomized, for the safety of the other patients. Dr. Cawley has been granted four days to set up this fantasy for Teddy to play through, so that Teddy can come to this realization himself. Everyone on the island has been instructed to interact with Teddy as though he is still a US Marshal.

Cawley reveals that he is about to lose his funding and his position. It is Teddy’s wife, Dolores, and not Rachel Solando, who killed her children. Stricken with grief, and wracked with guilt about being inattentive to her cries for help, Teddy killed her.

Teddy refuses to believe him, so Dr. Cawley removes the other sheets, which show Teddy the crime scene photos of his dead children. Their names are Edward, Daniel, and Rachel Laeddis. Cawley reveals that Teddy’s wife, who was manic-depressive, killed their children, after having attempted suicide. The gun and badge Teddy came onto the island with were both fakes.

Now Cawley shows in Dr. Sheehan—who turns out to be Chuck. Chuck, or Dr. Sheehan, is Teddy’s primary psychiatrist. They encourage Andrew to crack the last code, which reads: YOU ARE HIM. For a moment, it seems as though Teddy accepts their story, but when Cawley, relieved, shakes his hand, Teddy demands that he stop calling him Andrew.

Teddy is brought to Ward C and sedated. When Teddy goes under, he recalls his past life. He recalls his children’s growing unease around Dolores. He recalls her increasing paranoia and distance. He recalls doctors failing to diagnose her. He recalls being away on a case for a long time, and returning home, to hear Dolores, soaking wet, say that there wasn’t enough. When he asks what she means, he discovers that she has taken all of the laudanum in their home. Teddy discovers that he has drowned their children. He is so blinded with rage and guilt, as she talks about continuing to keep the children around, that he shoots her.

Teddy comes to, and calls for the doctor. He says that he accepts it all, that he is Laeddis, that he killed his wife, because she killed their children. Cawley warns him that he has come to this realization before, and regressed rapidly. Teddy promises that this time he won’t.

Teddy awakes sometime later, and greets the orderlies cheerfully. He sits on a bench, where he is joined by Chuck. He tells Chuck that they have to get off the island. Chuck agrees. He sees Dr. Cawley with a group of orderlies, coming toward him with a straitjacket.


The final chapter of Shutter Island pulls the rug out from under the reader once more by suggesting that everything that has happened up until this point has been an elaborate ruse. Teddy is, in fact, Andrew Laeddis, and it is he that killed his wife. His wife, in turn, was the one who killed her (their) children—not Rachel Solando. Dr. Cawley is not an unscrupulous physician carrying on illegal experiments, but rather the only humane doctor at Aschecliffe. George Noyce was, in fact, a paranoid schizophrenic. And Chuck is, in fact, Teddy’s psychiatrist.

Up through the ending, Lehane takes great pains never to fully clarify whether Dr. Cawley is telling the truth. At no point in the novel does Lehane ever call Teddy “Andrew,” and all of the “realizations” about his past life with Dolores and their children come to him as dreams, whose reality he never fully accepts. Because we, as the readers, are kept carefully in the dark, and are given no details about Teddy’s life before arriving on the island that aren’t from Teddy himself, we can never say with one hundred percent certainty that Dr. Cawley is not lying. We have spent enough time with Teddy, and in Teddy’s head, that his resistance feels natural and right.

By reuniting Teddy with Chuck at the end, and using their names, instead of Laeddis and Sheehan, Lehane attempts to keep open whether they hadn’t both been brainwashed by the medication, and whether the doctors aren’t simply coming to lobotomize Teddy to keep him from escaping.

The reveal packs a very visceral punch, not only because of its unexpectedness, but because it changes, and sharpens, the novel’s themes. Instead of a struggle against the forces of institutional power, or a mystery, the novel becomes a reflection on grief and guilt. Rather than focusing on whether Teddy will escape the island, or whether he will bring Ashecliffe to justice, the primary dramatic conflict of the novel becomes whether can come to terms with the grief of Dolores’s death, and the guilt of not only having killed her, but of having overlooked her illness by retreating into his work and into alcoholism.

If we read the ending of the novel to mean that Teddy has, in fact, regressed as Dr. Cawley feared, and that Teddy will be lobotomized, then the book is no longer a Gothic mystery, but, as is often the case with horror stories, a tragedy—given the choice between living with the guilt and working through it, between living with the tragedy of the war and forgetting entirely, Teddy decides to let himself be lobotomized.

The chapter’s title, “The Bad Sailor,” gives us some insight into why Teddy makes this decision. The chapter refers to Teddy’s falling short of his father’s expectations. Throughout the novel, Teddy reflects on the expectations of him as a man to commit violence—as a soldier, as a marshal who hunts dangerous criminals. In order to have been there for his wife, to have saved her, and in order to emerge from his madness into peace, Teddy would have needed a different model, a different standard.

He never encounters one. And what is worse, the world of the fifties is becoming more and more like Shutter Island. We might interpret Teddy’s decision as the desire to be free from the unbearable emotional toll of violence. In this respect, the novel brings into parallel not Chuck and Teddy, but Cawley and Teddy, both characters of failed humanitarianism.

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