Freudian themes in Shadow of a Doubt

In Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock uses Sigmund Freud’s Electra Complex, similar to the Oedipus complex but for a female, to explain the family dynamic. The oldest daughter, in this case, has a strange infatuation with her uncle instead of her father. Young Charlie was named after her mother’s favorite person, her little brother. Young Charlie ends up being a lot like her Uncle, for example, in their personalities, sense of humor, and their mannner physically. Their relationship is strangely close and uncomfortable for the audience to watch, because they are suppose to be the typical American family. Instead there is a sense of incest, which is against all social and ethical norms in society. In James McLaughlin’s article, “All in the Family”, in the book A Hitchcock Reader, he states that,” In Shadow of a Doubt, the family with its glow (its halo) may seem like a warm bath, but it all too readily becomes a swamp of frustrated yearnings, breeding demons of female emancipation whose ferocity it is barely able to contain. The representative American family, in short, is the true horror of the film.” This quotation perfectly sums up Hitchcock’s reasoning behind the uncomfortable family dynamic in the film.

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