Through the Newton family in Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock portrays that era’s idea of a “normal” family and its shortcomings. The father, Joseph Newton, and his relationships and interactions with his family are used to show flaws in the average family.
Charles, the young son of Joseph, never questions his father, unlike his two sisters, showing how males of that society accept the patriarchal hierarchy of the time. The younger sister, Ann, is shown chastising her father about how what he’s reading is immature, and not even she, as a young child, would read that. Charlie also points out her father’s flaws. She comments on his greed at the beginning of the film along with essentially telling him he does not appreciate his wife enough. He responds almost dismissively and treats her like a child. The two younger females disapproval of their father shows their overall disapproval of the patriarchal figure.
Their mother, however, “does not share her daughter’s perception of family life as stagnant and hardly aims to suppress the presence of her husband.” The mother, and her resignation to her husband, completes the arc of females at the time. While her daughters don’t accept the hierarchy, she does, which shows that as women mature and age they stop fighting the system and take a place under the husband. This arc is also shown at the end of the film when Charlie “gives up” and decides to be with Graham. Joseph’s interactions with his children and wife show that Hitchcock felt that women are put down by the men in their lives and the patriarchal family system. Because Joseph’s daughters are discontented, his role as father has not been fulfilled, but this is overlooked by the mother and son because they accept the system.
Uncle Charlie’s presence threatens Joseph’s standing as head-of-the-household. Uncle Charlie shows how the family would actually be better without their father when he hands out gifts to the family. This shows that he could better take care of the Newton family than Joseph does. Also when Uncle Charlie builds the house out of Josephs paper, he shows how the family’s “fragility is guaranteed by dad’s flimsy materials.” Overall, Hitchcock attacks the father figure of his time through the shortcomings of Joseph Newton.
McLaughlin, James. “All in the Family: Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.” A Hitchcock Reader, 145-155. 2nd ed. Blackwell Publishing, 2009.