A Dysfunctional Family Dynamic in Shadow of a Doubt

Within Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, it is evident that there is a disconcerting relationship between Uncle Charlie and Charlie. The sexual tension between the two is an unlikely feature in any family dynamic. In discussing the interactions between those within the immediate family, James McLaughlin observes how Charlie has an “unmistakable, barely conscious, hostility directed at a father”; another unlikely feature of a typical family (148). This assertion is supported with Charlie being portrayed as critical daughter who often makes snide remarks towards her father, Mr. Newton. This can be described as passive aggressive behavior and is perhaps her way of expressing her resentment towards Mr. Newton. Charlie’s resentment is possibly spurred by her boring and idyllic life for which she blames her father. Consequently, there is an innate desire to experience something out of the norm and dangerous, which does happen with the arrival of Uncle Charlie. It is also interesting to see how just as critical Uncle Charlie can be towards Mr. Newton. This is evident from they way he embarrasses Mr. Newton at his work, disregards his comment about leaving a hat on the bed, sits at the head of the table, and continues to rip up Mr. Newton’s newspaper despite the children’s protests. Hitchcock’s intentions for having Mr. Newton characterized as a pushover is unclear, but it is certain that it is used to further intensify the discomfort and to reveal how seemingly typical families can be in reality, dysfunctional.

McLaughlin, James.” All in the Family: Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.” In A Hitchcock Reader, 145-155. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

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