Doppelgangers in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt

As the opening credits role, couples dance a waltz in unison in a circle. Each couple looks like the last as they continually rotate. The men are dressed in tuxedos and the women are all wearing long flowing dresses. The waltz dissolves into a shot of desolate urban view from under the bridge. Another shot highlighting urban decay follows, this time there are skyscrapers in the background.

This is the opening scene of the 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt, a film that focuses on duality. The most noticeable contrast of them all is that between Uncle Charlie and Charlie. These two characters are on the opposing sides of good and evil. The innocence of Charlie is reversed in her doppelganger of sorts, Uncle Charlie. Uncle Charlie and Charlie seem to have a mental connection throughout the movie, which highlights how they are each other’s doppelganger. The duality of these characters is displayed through a variety of ways by Hitchcock.

Uncle Charlie laying down

The opening scene, in which each Charlie is presented, shows how both characters are developed to be opposing personality. The first time we see Uncle Charlie he is lying in a bed alone seemingly in deep thought. The camera zooms in, as he plays with the cigar in his hands. He is dressed sharply and on his night stand is completely unorganized money. Uncle Charlie is then interrupted by a woman informing him that a couple of gentlemen wish to see him. After Uncle Charlie escapes the investigators that are following him, we are shown the Newton

Charlie laying down

family. In the second floor of the Newton house lays Charlie. Similar to Uncle Charlie she is lying down in her bed, wearing proper clothes, and thinking. She is then interrupted by her father, which is similar to Uncle Charlie. The uniformity of the introduction to both Charlies, shows the almost mental telepathy between the two.
The idea that the main characters not only share a name, but also a mental connection is continually addressed throughout A Shadow of a Doubt. When Charlie goes to write a telegram to Uncle Charlie, she receives one from him before she can write it. When Uncle Charlie arrives, Charlie is completely aware that he has a secret. Both characters are seen wide awake in the Nelson house, as all other members of the family are fast asleep. They clearly have their fair share of similarities.

Despite the similarities between the Charlies, they have numerous differences. Besides the obvious differences in age and in gender, most of the differences are psychological. Female Charlie is a young girl raised in the suburbs who epitomizes wholesomeness. Her innocence is obvious and is clearly out of place in the inner city bar she walks into. She also says that money has little importance to her. Uncle Charlie is the opposite with his nihilistic opinion of the world. Uncle Charlie is a serial killer that reduces humanity down to animals that stand in his way. He kills for money and has sociopathic qualities in his persona. Their relationship can be reduced down to Charlie being good and Uncle Charlie being evil. By creating these two characters with such unique personas, Hitchcock is trying to show the duality of a personality.

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