Doppelgangers and doubles in
Hitchcock's movies;
The psychomachia
Hitchcock and psychonalysis

A Doppelganger ("double walker" in German) is a double or second-self. In literature, dream analysis, or archetypal symbolism, the Doppelganger is often figured as a twin, shadow, or mirror-image of the protagonist. The Doppelganger characteristically appears as identical to (or closely resembling) the protagonist; sometimes the protagonist and Doppelganger have the same name.

Prominent literary examples of Doppelgangers include Poe's "William Wilson," Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde," Conrad's "The Secret Sharer," and the novel and movie "The Fight Club." Doppelgangers frequently appear in popular culture, including "evil twins" in soap operas, Captain Picard's double in Star Trek, and Phoebe's twin sister Ursula on Friends.

Guy and Bruno in Strangers on a Train. "But Guy, you wanted it."

Richard Blaney & Bob Rusk in Frenzy. Like Bruno, Rusk murders the estranged wife of his "friend," with the friend then becoming the suspect.

An important literary form employing the Doppelganger motif is the psychomachia, originated by the Greek poet Prudentius to depict "conflict within the soul" or the struggle between virtue and vice within an individual. The psychomachia was particularly important in medieval art and drama, where separate characters were perceived as representing different aspects of a single human personality, so that conflict within the drama depicted the struggle of conscience or the need for integration of the personality.

In recent examples influenced by Freudianism, the Doppelganger represents hidden or repressed aspects of the protagonist's personality. In Freudian terms, the arrival of the double represents the "return of the repressed." The protagonist must acknowledge what the double represents, and at the same time struggle against it. Characteristically, a Doppelganger story climaxes with a confrontation of the two, usually a fight to the death. The death of the Doppelganger represents the successful repression of the dangerous impulses, but the struggle leaves the protagonist sadder and wiser about humanity and about himself or herself.

Devil or angel? A modern representation of the psychomachia.
Animal House, 1978
Above: In Shadow of a Doubt, Uncle Charlie and his niece Charlie are introduced with parallel shots. Later she threatens to kill him and he attempts to kill her.

In Vertigo, Judy (who appears wearing green, a color associated with ghosts), is transformed into the dead Madeline.

The motif of doubling is common in Hitchcock's films. Shadow of a Doubt, and Strangers on a Train, and Frenzy all depict Doppelganger figures. In Vertigo, the motif of transformation of a woman into a deceased double occurs twice (is doubled). Psycho uses the related motifs of split personality and two physically similar male figures.
In Psycho, Norman Bates's split personality is signalled by his reflection in window glass. Later, Norman is confronted by Sam Loomis: critics have commented on the physical similarity between the actors cast for the two roles.

main page: Hitchcock & psychoanalysis

Freudian theories:
- repressed memory
- Oedipal complex & Momism
- stages of psychosexual development
- dream analysis
- split personality

Related concepts:
Doppelgangers, doubles, exchange of guilt
- scopophilia, the gaze, fetishism
- mothers in Hitchcock's movies
- homosexuality in Hitchcock movies