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.