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A Synopsis of the Movie Shadow of a Doubt

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These bouts, and many others, exist both in the mind of the audience and various characters throughout the film. Doubt serves not only to captivate the audience and increase suspense, but as a tool to break down and level the film into sections, with each section depicting different major doubts for different characters. In this way, doubt shapes the film’s structure. The first so-called “section of doubt” can be categorized as follows: The audience doubts Uncle Charlie’s innocence. They suspect there is something distrustful about him. Jack, and his fellow detective also doubt Charlie and are on to his case.

Every other person in the film, including young Charlie and the Newton family, do not have any hesitance, reservations, or semblance of doubt in their minds towards Charlie. To begin with the film’s opening scene: Charlie’s housekeeper gives Charlie the news about two “friends” stopping by for a visit. The deafening music, ominous lighting and script writing of this scene do much to make the audience doubt Charlie’s good intentions right away. It is something about the way he jumps out of bed right after she leaves that tells the audience he is the one hiding something and not the mysterious two men.

But there is an inkling of something somewhere, that won’t let the audience be too sure. The pile of money all over the floor is a big red flag, but “innocent until proven guilty” so the audience holds off on any sort of judgment until they see more of Uncle Charlie. Regardless, the seed of doubt has been planted. Interestingly, in this scene, Uncle Charlie’s housekeeper makes just as big an impression as Charlie does. While he comes off as shady and mysterious, she seems to be naive to the extreme. She, in what could be downright irony, remarks, “those friends of yours told me not to mention they’d call.

But I thought you’d like to know somehow,” ND “Not everybody in the world is honest you know. Though I must say I hadn’t had much trouble that way. ” This is naive because not only is it virtually impossible to not have met anyone in the world who is crooked, but one of those dishonest people is lying directly in front of her. Granted, a lot of this insight is seen only in retrospect after learning about Uncle Charlie’s crimes, but as his housekeeper, this is something she should have foreseen, if not suspected.

This is a theme that will reoccur often, where peripheral characters will refuse to doubt Charlie’s innocence and will come off as foolishly naive. These characters will be referred to as the “doubtless. ” It is their lack of doubt that further emphasizes and confuses the doubts of the “doubt-errs” as will be demonstrated with young Charlie later on. The film then goes on, still within the parameters of the first section, to draw Uncle Charlie as the clear villain, using a multitude of different clues such as the inscription on the ring he gives his niece, his sneaky removal of the newspaper article, and his own facial expressions.

The doubts we, as the audience, have concerning Uncle Charlie as a reliable character, are full-fledged. Granted, we are unsure about his actual crime, but we know he is bad news. One can almost say there is no room for doubt in the certainty of his treacherousness. The film has, in practically every respect, showed us that Charlie is no good. The seed of doubt is no longer a seed. It is no longer really a doubt, either. In fact, it starts to become suspicious and frustrating that no one else in the family has picked up on these glaring clues, such as Uncle Charlie’s refusal to be photographed. Strangely, no one seems to doubt him.

Therefore, it is precisely at this moment, when niece Charlie begins to finally doubt her loved uncle and says to interviewer Jack “Are you trying to tell me I shouldn’t think he’s so wonderful? ‘ that the tables are turned. Section two has begun. Section two is defined by almost the reverse roles of doubt for each participating character. For the audience, suddenly, everything seems a bit too glaringly obvious. The audience is subtly thrown into a backwards, twisted whirlwind of confusion. Can it be that Hitchcock would so clearly draw Uncle Charlie out to be the bad guy and then follow through with it until the end?

Maybe those oh-so-obvious clues were planted as a red herring to lead the audience in the ring direction, which we so faithfully heeded! And so, as niece Charlie doubts her uncle more and more, we as the audience begin to doubt our own well- sown theory. Section two therefore consists of the audience doubting their own theory that Uncle Charlie is the murderer, yet wavering back and forth between the two sides; young Charlie doubting her Uncle’s reliability for the first time; and the Newton family doubting nothing – as usual.

In this section, as in section one, Jack, too, suspects Uncle Charlie, and he spends his time attempting to convince young Charlie that her Uncle is an outlaw. Section two is short-lived, because ultimately, however much young Charlie and we would like to avoid the fact that her uncle is the Merry Widow Murderer, it becomes a bit hard to deny the evidence – especially hard, when u see him grasping young Charlie’s hands violently, and plotting to kill her. Hence, section three has commenced, categorized by both the audience and young Charlie sure of Uncle Charlie’s wickedness.

The audiences’ role has shifted from their fleeting, momentary doubt of Charlie’s innocence, and they are now sure he is bad. Young Charlie is also more confident of this fact in section three. The defining moment which introduces section three, symbolizing young Charlie removing all her doubts and making a final decision regarding her uncle, is when she dons the ring during the after-party, signaling to her uncle that its time for him to leave. It is more than her being fed up with him playing her family and sick of him taking shots at her life. She is certain. She has gotten rid of all her doubts.

Uncle Charlie is the murderer and he has to go. Unfortunately, the Newton’s, sans young Charlie, are extremely ignorant, and do not notice anything adrift with their Uncle Charlie’s behavior, even in section three. Again, as the audience, we are frustrated at their thickness. How can they not doubt him after his rants about useless widows and young Charlie’s reoccurring hesitations concerning her uncle? The Newton’s definitely seem to fit into the category of the “doubt-less,’” just like we categorized Uncle Charlie’s housekeeper earlier. The function and presence of the “doubtless” serve to further complicate young Charlie’s thought process.

In section two, since they do not suspect her uncle at all, she second-thinks herself and is therefore slightly less stable in her suspicions. Charlie definitely does hold tock in her family’s opinions despite always wanting to protect her mothers innocence, so the fact that they do not doubt Uncle Charlie at all causes her to doubt her own doubts, and she becomes uncertain whether he is the murderer or not. However in section three, her family’s lack of doubt does not cause her to be less certain, rather it gives her reservations about how to handle her newfound knowledge.

The role of Jack the detective is most interesting to point out during this section. While during section two Jack tries to convince young Charlie that her Uncle is an outlaw, we see in section three, Jack doubts this himself! He rethinks and wonders about his own convictions due to the capture of the “East-Coast Murderer. ” If he really was that certain of his charges on Uncle Charlie, wouldn’t he have followed through with them regardless of anything occurring on the East coast?

It is clear his foundations are less-than-grounded, and he has his own doubts, as seen by him taking a very passive stance and not pressuring young Charlie to confess. For the audience however, the doubting isn’t over just yet. Section four of the film is the last stage of doubt, distinct and unrelated to Uncle Charlie’s role as Merry Widow Murderer. In “Enjoyment of Fear” Alfred Hitchcock talks about the knowledge we have as an audience that the main character, with whom we sympathize the most, will live to be k. We absolutely know this to be true.

Without that fact, we would be too scared to watch anything! However, we forget it time and time again throughout the film. This is crucial. After all, if we didn’t forget, we would be downright bored with the plot line of the film, predicting the outcome without any doubts (Hitchcock 243). This holds true for Shadow of a Doubt, as well. With all the tricks and shenanigans Uncle Charlie pulls on his niece, we know she will live. After all, what kind of vie would have the protagonist fall down the steps right in the middle of the film and die?

Yet there is something about the second-to-last scene of Shadow of a Doubt that truly makes us reconsider. As young Charlie struggles with her once beloved uncle on the very edge of the train car, a level of unprecedented panic is reached in the audience. Of course young Charlie will live! But the dramatic, climatic train scene has us doubting this conviction. We truly believe Uncle Charlie will chuck her off the train! Hitchcock has us doubting until the very last second. And then he pulls back. Uncle Charlie falls off the car while young Charlie ivies.

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