Family Relationships in Shadow of a Doubt

In the film, Shadow of a Doubt, there is a very notable relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist is the young Charlie, a smart teenage girl, and her Uncle Charlie who is the Merry Widow Murder. Even before the Uncle’s true identity was discovered the relationship between Uncle Charlie and young Charlie was borderline incestuous. Uncle Charlie was giving his niece gifts and acting in ways that were all together not fitting for being her uncle.  Even how close he stood next to her gave an eerie romantic aura to the scene. 

For example in the chart below it is shown what is considered to be intimate, personal and social space and how much space is acceptable between people depending on the situation.                     personal_space

And here is a screen shot from the film of Uncle Charlie and young Charlie:

shadow of a doubt 5


It is evident that the space between the two characters is far from social or personal. It would appear that they are very intimate with each other despite the fact they are related by blood.

Family dynamics often play a very important part in many of Hitchcock’s great films. In general there is a mother and father who are incredibly overprotective of their daughter. The daughter is always very intelligent and beautiful and tends to fall in love with the protagonist. This time however the family dynamic takes a very different twist. The mother in Shadow of a Doubt seems more lost than anything. She looks up to her younger brother extensively and has no idea anything inappropriate might be occurring between her daughter and her brother. Of course the relationship between Uncle Charlie and Young Charlie takes the family dynamic to an entirely new level. While it is not stated out right that there is a romantic connection between the two I found it was strongly implied and showed that this picturesque family was not perhaps so perfect.

However, there is another explanation for Hitchcock’s choice in creating the romantic spark between two family members. Uncle Charlie was a cunning man and he clearly had many mental issues so it would not be a surprise to know he was doing this on purpose. He knew that young Charlie was very bright and perhaps by trying to create a special bond with her he was trying to save himself.


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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *