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Please could I have some feedback on this Shutter Island essay - Thanks!

Question: Setting is vital to driving the action of a text

‘We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be’, a quote that explores the danger of suppressing the person you are by masking yourself as someone you are not. In this day and age, where people believe that they are judged for how they look and act, it can become all too enticing to create a façade to hide your true self behind in an effort to satisfy people’s judgements. Hiding the person you truly are is one of the main ideas behind Martin Scorsese’s film ‘Shutter Island’, as the protagonist Teddy Daniels is not at all who he seems to be at first. Through the use of the vital settings of Teddy’s past, false reality and present, Scorses drives the action of the film as Teddy transitions between these three alternate worlds.

The director, Martin Scorsese, effectively utilizes Teddy’s three alternate worlds to teach the audience about the dark side of human nature through the compelling character of Teddy Daniels. Scorsese establishes the importance of confronting the pain from our past instead of attempting to bury it beneath lies. As author Sonya Parker once said, ‘A lie can hide the truth but it can’t change the truth’, a fact that we often ignore when a lie can seem like a comforting alternative to facing the truth. Accepting your past circumstances is a vital step to accepting who you are as we are all products of our pasts.

The first of Teddy’s three alternate worlds that we are introduced to is his false reality, which is a vital setting as it drives Teddy’s action of searching for the missing patient, Rachel Solando on Shutter Island. It is during the opening scene, when Teddy is looking at himself in a mirror, that it is foreshadowed that the protagonist is not who he seems. Through a close up shot of Teddy’s face in the mirror, it is revealed that the Teddy we see is only half of who he really is, as mirrors represent split personalities or double-life’s. During this scene, Teddy occupies a false reality which he has conjured and in which he is a US Marshal who is travelling to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Ashecliffe hospital. It is only revealed at the end of the film that Teddy is actually Andrew Laeddis and that he was living in a reality of his own creation.

The main reason Teddy conjures a false reality is that his scarred and traumatic past make him into someone he cannot accept. To deal with this, he becomes the man he wishes to be, thus highlighting the theme of ‘perception vs reality’. It is Teddy’s action of pursuing the case to find Rachel Solando that dives the film as it is through this that he finds himself on Shutter Island, the place that holds all the answers to who he really is.

The second alternate world that Teddy occupies during the film is his past, which is a vital setting that drives the creation of Teddy’s false reality. The protagonist’s past is characterized by grief and pain as Teddy experienced the horrors of WW2 as well as the death of his wife and children. Scorsese reveals the world of Teddy’s past through the use of flashbacks throughout the film, which portray some of the harrowing moments that impacted the actions Teddy takes. The second flashback into Teddy’s past reveals Teddy’s memory of when he was part of the liberation of Dachau, a Nazi death camp. Upon entering Dachau, a crab camera movement is used to show the dirty and emaciated bodies of the Jewish prisoners, whose sunken eyes convey the hardships that they have had to endure. This moment of Teddy’s past is significant as it fuels Teddy’s hatred for the Nazis and drives him to suspect that Ashecliffe’s Dr Naehring is an ex-Nazi doctor who is experimenting on the patients of Shutter Island.

Another moment of significance in Teddy’s past is also revealed in this flashback when Teddy finds himself standing over a dying Nazi General. A low-angle shot highlights that the power to be merciful lies in Teddy’s hands as he can choose to end the General’s misery. However, instead of showing mercy, Teddy leaves the Nazi to die a painful and slow death as he knows the crimes of this man who he sees as nothing but his enemy. This highlights how it is easy for us to judge others by their actions instead of by who they are. It is easy for us to take action based on what we have witnessed instead of looking beyond this to who the person is that is responsible. The violence and injustice that the Jewish prisoners were subjected to at the hands of the Nazis blind Teddy to the potential innocence of Dr Naehring as he chooses to mark him as ‘the enemy’.

The final alternate world that Teddy occupies is the present, which is a vital setting that drives Teddy’s actions in avoiding the man he truly is. Throughout the film, Scorsese illudes the audience to what is the present as we believe that Teddy false reality is the true reality. It is not until the scene in the lighthouse at the end of the film when the true present is revealed as Dr Sheehan and Dr Cawley reveal that Teddy is the man he has been searching for, Andrew Laeddis. Suddenly, the pain and heartache of the truth comes crashing down on Teddy, who faints into unconsciousness. A high angle shot of Teddy shrouded in a pool of light on the floor shows how the present world has triumphed over Teddy’s aversion to the truth. The high key lighting signifies that Teddy has been enlightened to the truth and that he now occupies the true present instead of his false reality.

As Teddy avoided the present throughout the film, his state of mind rapidly declined, highlighting that it is only through the acceptance of our past, including the pain that comes with it, that we can heal. As Oprah Winfrey once said ‘The thing you fear most has no power. It is your fear of it that has the power. Facing the truth will really set you free’. The truth will always prevail in the end and with it comes acceptance of what we’ve endured and the person that it makes us. We can either be overcome by our pain or face it and become stronger.

In conclusion, the three vital settings of Teddy’s false reality, past and present drive the action of the film as they influence Teddy’s decisions. All of these worlds work in combination with one another as Scorsese masterfully fools the audience as to what is true and what is false. It is this that makes the film compelling and one which is filled with intrigue and small details that are easily overlooked. Scorsese also uses these worlds to explore the idea that ‘the less you spend time with truth, the easier it is to believe lies’ as Teddy’s avoidance of his past and present causes him to become trapped in a false reality.

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A clever start. You set up the argument convincingly - the settings are the Past, false reality and present and the action is driven by the moving between these which allows you to explore the wider implications you set up in the opening statements and develop further in the second paragraph.
Well structured with the three realities, good judicious use of techniques - perhaps a little more could be made of integrating the insightful comments through the paragraphs.
Eg You say " The main reason Teddy conjures a false reality is that his scarred and traumatic past make him into someone he cannot accept. To deal with this, he becomes the man he wishes to be, thus highlighting the theme of ‘perception vs reality’. It is Teddy’s action of pursuing the case to find Rachel Solando that dives the film as it is through this that he finds himself on Shutter Island, the place that holds all the answers to who he really is." Here you could delve a little deeper — why is it important that we have a positive view of ourselves? – Why do we need to see ourselves as basically good and moral people?.. What does it do to us when we have to accept we are not?..why is the reaction thus? and so on. This leads to deepen the idea of perception which is needed for the E grades.
It is better in the subsequent two realities.
The conclusion is sound but for perfection a little more development at the end of the insight. Go back and read the intro again and come back to the philosophical ruminations at the start.
This is a solid essay and you clearly know the film well.
Hope this helps.
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