The Electra Complex

Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt encompasses many Freudian, as well as other psychological theories. One of the most prominent theories throughout the film was that of the Electra Complex. This theory is similar to the Oedipal Complex, except it is used when referring to the female psyche instead of the male. In the film, young Charlie and Uncle Charlie both have an unnatural interest with one another, which insinuates an uncomfortable sense of incest throughout the entirety of the film:


The relationship between young Charlie and Uncle Charlie grows exceedingly inappropriate throughout entirety of the film, especially in their physical contact with one another. The two characters always seem to be touching or in some sort of embrace throughout the film, which is undoubtedly inappropriate for an uncle/niece relationship, and makes the audience feel uncomfortable while watching. The two characters also obtain many similarities with one another, making their relationship all the more unnatural. For example, from the very beginning of the film, we see young Charlie and Uncle Charlie doing the exact same thing – laying in bed, with some sort of apparent sickness or apathy to what is happening around them:



This opening to the film can also be connected to the Electra Complex, because it can be loosely implied that the characters are “in bed with one another.”

In fact, one of the theories of James McLaughlin’s essay in A Hitchcock Reader is that both Charlies are so similar that they have a sort of telepathic connection with one another. McLaughlin writes that “[Charlie’s] uncle ‘heard’ her, that there is a kind of mental telepathy between them. She wanted him to come and, miraculously, he came” (147). This theory directly relates to the theory of the Electra Complex, and would prove the two character’s immoral infatuation with one another to indeed be true.

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