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The Family Dynamic in “Shadow of a Doubt”

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt, the family dynamic is a crucial piece of the puzzle in this thriller. Young Charlie begins to suspect that her mother’s brother, and her namesake, Uncle Charlie is the Merry Widow Murderer after talking with a detective posed as a census taker, Jack. She then begins to look closer at some of the clues that have popped up since Uncle Charlie’s sudden appearance, like the ring with the engraved initials he gives Young Charlie, which only helps to fortify her suspicions that her uncle is the murderer.

However, Young Charlie knows that if she were to tell her family her suspicions about Uncle Charlie, it would ruin them, especially her mother. The family is already on the rocks when the movie starts, and the audience can sense this with Young Charlie’s first line: “This family has just gone to pieces.”

Therefore, the family dynamic keeps the plot from developing smoothly into Uncle Charlie paying for his crimes, and instead Young Charlie must find another way for the truth to be heard, even if the truth is divulged after the fact. Had the Newton family not been in this film, it would have made for a very bland movie.

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

Hitchcock Themes

After watching many of Hitchcock’s films such as Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound, and Strangers on a Train. I have decided to comment on the family dynamics in Shadow of a Doubt. The family dynamics throughout this movie are downright creepy and incestuous. When the movie starts out with the parallel of Uncle Charlie in his bed and young Charlie in her bed there is a weird dynamic. They both appear to be sick and something is missing in their lives. Young Charlie desperately wants Uncle Charlie to visit and he somehow gets this message without being contacted. They seem to have a weird telepathy that only the two of them seem to understand. When he arrives young Charlie is oblivious and doesn’t realize that he is a creepy man. As the movie progresses she starts to become suspicious of him and eventually kills him. The family dynamic is also screwed up because Charlie’s little sister is very mature for her age and automatically realizes that uncle Charlie is bad. Also uncle Charlie treats the family’s dad as if he is a child. He tries to take the dad’s place as the head of the family. In the end they realize that uncle Charlie was bad news and that he was contributing to the bad family dynamics.