#BestsellerCode100 The Narrator in Shutter Island

This post contains spoilers about the narrator of Shutter Island. Join the main discussion here.

Shutter Island: A Novel by Dennis Lehane

Let me be right up front. I usually don’t like unreliable narrators. They aren’t so bad when you know right from the start the narrator isn’t reliable, for example like Rachel Watson in The Girl On The Train. But when the narrator seems reliable and is revealed to have been leading the reader astray only at the end of the book, I feel cheated. I want to shout at the author, “no fair!”

If that is the case, why didn’t I feel cheated by U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels? You have to admit that was a huge twist at the end and although there were hints, nothing was conclusive one way or another until the last part.

But who is the narrator?

I didn’t feel cheated by Teddy Daniels because he wasn’t the truly the narrator. Remember the prologue? Dr. Lester Sheehan aka Chuck Aule was the one writing the story. Lester fully admits his mind wasn’t what it once was. He is writing the story because “…its current storage facility…” (his mind) was beginning to “leak.”

What really happened at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane? Was Teddy really an inmate who Lester tried to help with an unusual and risky treatment? Or was he really a Marshal who stumbled into a trap from which he couldn’t get away? Looking back on the prologue again, was Teddy the rat who had swum to the sand island from which there was no hope of escaping?

What do you think of the narrator in Shutter Island?



(Public domain photograph by PublicDomainPictures.net)



  1. Karen

    Not only did your comment about the narrator make me go back and reread the Prologue, but also your comment about Teddy being the rat. Do you think Teddy escaped, then? And drowned? Or tried to escape and had to swim back to the island, and thus, then, to be lobotomized (is that even a word?)?

    • Roberta


      I hope all the books on the list don’t leave the reader wondering like this one has.

      About the rat, I took it more as a metaphor. Perhaps it means Teddy came to an island from which there was no escape? That the possibility of escape was only an illusion?

      Maybe it’s time to do some research. 🙂

      • Karen Gibson

        I think wondering, though, is a good thing. I hate movies that leave me wondering, but I often like books that do so. I like a book that leaves me thinking about it for days, pondering the possibilities. Odd, isn’t it? Or maybe, Odd, aren’t I?

        I can see that this book group is going to make me think about books more deeply than I usually. I’m beginning to realize that I’m a visceral reader, evaluating a book with my gut instead of my head!

  2. Nathaniel

    Is the Teddy insane or is he sane. I couldn’t pick it up

    • Roberta

      That was left up for you to decide.

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