In our upcoming reading, we will be discussing issues of perversion, or what Poe called the “Imp of the Perverse,” a kind of desire to pursue feelings that may not be healthy for us and others, but that cause us a kind of pleasure. There are numerous examples of perverse behaviour in SHADOW OF A DOUBT, not only related to Young Charlie and her Uncle Charlie (her father and his friend’s comically unhealthy obsession with crime and murder, for example). In perversion, there is a seemingly paradoxical pleasure in wanting to harm or annihilate oneself—to disobey the rules and cross or break down the boundaries that protect us in body and mind as a distinct and healthy “self.” In perversion is a sort of dance, then, between pleasure and pain, fixity of self and vanishing of self into chaos. In our art (especially our popular art), this drive often manifests as a sort of quest narrative. A hero’s goal in a quest narrative, for example, is for individuation, or a “coming into” a sense of self that could be seen to mirror the maturation process. This journey towards selfhood is often marked by exterior threats, where knowledge of the world comes through violence (think the “Little Red Riding Hood” folktale). Once these goals are met, through the objects assigned as end points, the hero(es) can return as having come into a full sense of selfhood, and having reestablished order in the world, albeit a much darker world than they knew before. In Gothic works, this journey often takes characters into spaces and brings them into contact with people that threaten to challenge their integrity, intellect, bodies, identities. In SHADOW OF A DOUBT, this “hero’s quest” may look something more like the classical bildungsroman, or “coming of age” narrative, where young Charlie tests herself against the world and characters around her. In Uncle Charlie, she finds a dark doppelganger, a doubled version of herself to contend with. But there are other such conflicts she encounters, as well, that test Charlie’s own tendencies towards the perverse. Respond in any way you wish to this post regarding how SHADOW OF A DOUBT narrates, visualizes or thematizes this sort of perverse drive, this dance of pleasure and pain. Your response need not focus on Charlie or Uncle Charlie, but could focus on how perversity appears in other characters.
Your post should be a response to this one, and should not be more than 200 words. This post is optional.
20/10/2018 09:14:24 pm
Upon viewing SHADOW OF A DOUBT, I realized that the viewer’s interpretations and understanding of the plot are just as perverted as some of the characters. Shortly after uncle Charlie arrives at the mansion, he offers a ring to his niece. As he takes her hand to slip on the jewelry, the viewer can’t help but notice the similarity to a nuptial ceremony. Then, there’s a specific scene where the uncle is sitting on the couch behind Ann (Charlie’s younger sister) who is innocently kneeling while reading a book. The placement of the characters suggests that the uncle is looking over the young child with sexual subjectivity, and the viewer notices immediately this behavior. These scenes are just two of many that suggest more than they show. Although Hitchcock probably intended these scenes to be so ambiguous, the viewer is himself constructing these relationships of pedophilia and incest. He feels uncomfortable but can’t seem to take his eyes off the screen. The unpleasant relationships between the characters are as impactful and compelling as the pleasure experienced by the viewer from watching. This ‘junk food’ of emotions which provides satisfaction but isn’t necessarily healthy for us is precisely what perversion is defined as.
Hannah Di Francesco
21/10/2018 05:47:32 pm
I found that SHADOW OF A DOUBT shows the perverse drive when the father and his friend are talking about murdering each other. It is easy to tell that they are driven by this because they talk about it at any occasion that they have. This makes the other characters uneasy because they notice how perverse this situation is and cannot do anything but listen to it. The friend stops by unannounced at any moment when he has something to tell the father. They both do not notice the obvious discomfort of the other characters when they start talking about killing each other at the dinner table. It is ironic that this friend, who practically just talks about murder during the whole movie, ends up being the one who saves young Charlie from death by noticing her in the garage.
21/10/2018 07:56:57 pm
In Shadow of a Doubt, the relationship between Herb and Joseph is undoubtedly perverse. As Joseph says “We're not talking about killing people. Herb's talking about killing me and I'm talking about killing him”, they derive pleasure from talking about killing each other, and killing each other in specific detail. The movie intends to display the dance between pleasure and pain as, every scene where Herb and Joseph are talking about murdering each other, the scene is shot close-up; we can actually see the excitement in their eyes as they discuss this disturbing topic. I believe that this narrative between Herb and Joseph, along with the seemingly incestuous relationship between Uncle Charlie and Young Charlie, questions ourselves because we all do have a fascination towards death. We may not discuss it as openly as Herb and Joseph do, but we do all have this, and the narrative between Herb and Joseph bring out these repressed thoughts we have about death, which ultimately leaves us, the audience, feeling uneasy.
21/10/2018 09:19:20 pm
In Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT, the audience is repeatedly positioned in a way where it is forced to process the scenes in a perverse way. The movie isn’t entirely explicit about its perverseness and it is us, the viewer, who make connections (though very easy as sexuality is flagrant and entire movie is suggestive) between the visuals and the perverted. Emma offers the FBI agent to date her youngest daughter Ann as she ‘knows everything’. This puts the audience in a position where it thinks about a child on a date (and everything that entails…) with a much older man. Furthermore, towards the end of the movie when the Charlies are sitting in the bar, the uncle starts violently moving his hands as if he were strangling someone (I forget what he was actually doing as the imagery was so powerful). This makes us create a picture of a strangulated woman; image being the fruit of our mind. Also, the Merry-Widow Murderer kills widows, who would’ve most likely been mothers (1943). Women that are often seen as they suffered enough (old, alone, prey to disease, anxiety, depression, death) are furthermore, violently tormented. This movie reinforces and maintains the thought of someone in power, abusing someone who is ‘weaker’ which is fundamentally wrong.
22/10/2018 02:40:40 pm
I’d argue that while there are many important perversions in SHADOW OF A DOUBT, one of the main ones that tends to be overlooked is the perversion between Uncle Charlie and Young Charlie’s mother. After all, it is normal to be excited that your sibling is on his way, but in this case the mother is quite literally close to tears, ecstatic about his arrival and even puts him on some sort of pedestal. The way she looks at Charlie is the way you’d look at an idol that can do no wrong. Not only that, but also this character tells young Charlie something along the lines of “we can’t bother him, don’t call him for this” as if his own family is not as important as his work. It is clear she places him in a place higher than her own wants and desires. I’d say that she also gains some sort of pleasure from the fact that he is so unavailable, because that makes the time he is there so much more pleasurable. And like giving candy to a child, once you take the candy away they cry. In this case, when uncle Charlie is about to leave he tells young Charlie that his leaving could ruin the mother, or make her exceptionally sad. It’s as if she is addicted to her younger brother’s important presence, and when he is gone she collapses, but she takes pleasure in his leaving because at least then when he is there it is even more pleasurable.
22/10/2018 07:10:41 pm
One of the different ways to see perversion in SHADOW OF A DOUBT is towards the end of the movie, when Uncle Charlie is on the train with Young Charlie. She went in his room with her younger siblings just to visit, but the children left quickly, showing no interest of staying longer. When she wanted to leave, Uncle Charlie wanted and almost obligated her to stay longer. A bedroom is a symbol of privacy and is the main area to have sexual interaction. Having a long scene of a woman and a man near the man's bedroom already suggests signs of perversion. In addition to that, Uncle Charlie tried to strangle her outside the room. As we all know, it is a perverted and masochist act to strangle someone during sexual activities, which is considered exciting for some. The angle of the camera also adds disturbance to the scene because of the closeness of their bodies. The sound effects and the quickness of the movements make the viewers feel scared for Young Charlie. It might be scared for the danger of her falling from the train, or even the danger of her being sexually assaulted by her own uncle.
22/10/2018 07:21:12 pm
Young Charlie’s perverse curiosity behind the mystery of uncle Charlie expresses her own quest for individuation as she detaches herself from their close connection. By discovering the truth behind her uncle’s personality and acknowledging the three widowed woman that he has murdered, she is driven to the desire to cause him emotional harm. The observable tension between young Charlie and Charlie’s interactions after finding the missing article in her father’s journal in the library arises a constant repetition of the dance of pleasure and pain as they alternately threaten each other. For instance, she provokes uncle Charlie suggesting with her “dream” that she would be happy if he had left the house, arguing that he can’t stay and hide forever. Charlie, as a response, directs a monologue towards his niece expressing his motives to his murders threatening her in a serious matter as he imposes on her the rhetorical question: Are they?, undoubtedly referring to the murdered woman. Theses types of interactions showcases a certain pleasure in violence. Young Charlie, now detached from her uncle, a result of her own perverseness into his life, surpasses his imposed boundaries and finds a certain pleasure in causing him pain and decides to reserve the insight that she has on Charlie’s life for herself.
22/10/2018 11:33:14 pm
Hitchcock uses Uncle Charlie’s excessive hand gestures as a means of expressing the perverse drive in the film. Based on the exaggeration and focus placed on how Uncle Charlie moves his hands and what he uses them for, it is revealed to the viewer that he possesses a strong, perverse desire to be destructive. This desire can be seen in the scene where Uncle Charlie forcefully grabs his niece as she gasps “your hands!” (Shadow of a Doubt) as well as when he is seen ripping apart a piece of bread upon learning that his family is being interviewed. Uncle Charlie’s sort of uncontrollable impulse with his hands to take part in aggressive actions clearly highlights his hidden perverse desire to kill people – specifically wealthy widows – as they are strategically placed in the scenes. For example, Uncle Charlie yanks his niece’s hands in a very hostile manner just moments after being accused of being the Merry Widow Killer. Similarly, he is once again faced with the threat of being exposed as the killer when he is breaking bread. Uncle Charlie cannot help himself but to act in a hostile manner towards someone or something thus denouncing his sense of pleasure he feels when committing serious acts of violence.
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