Social Class In Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train

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Strangers on a Train is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s many masterpieces of the 1950’s. This thriller goes through the life of young Guy Haines, an aspiring tennis player and hopeful politician attempting to change both his lifestyle and social class. However, Guy isn 't alone, he is matched with a counterpart, Bruno Antoine, a young and mentally unstable aristocrat living with his very wealthy parents. While the progression of the movie can be seen as simple as an intense and invigorating thriller, there is a deeper and more underlying meaning to the entirety of the movie. Looking at Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train through the marxist and psychoanalytic lenses suggests that the story is truly about wealth and class’s subconscious influence on …show more content…
From the beginning of the movie Hitchcock develops a separation in social class through the opening scene of “first, showy, vulgar, brown-and-white brogues; second, plain unadorned walking shoes”(Wood, 86). This portrayal of Guy and Bruno sets the class differences between the two with Guy being a middle class man and Bruno a wealthy and spoiled upper class citizen. These class separations are the driving factors behind both Guy’s and Bruno’s subconscious desires. For Guy, social levels have the biggest effect on his subconscious. While some might see his divorcing of Miriam and engagement with Ann as simply a love story, others, often looking through a marxist type lens, see his attempt at changing social class. Robin Wood argues that “Guy is suspended between tennis and politics, between his tramp wife and his senator’s daughter”(Wood, 87). This suspension shows Guys subconscious desire to change social class, and using Ann to do so. With Ann being an established, wealthy , and politically involved; Guy is subconsciously drawn to Ann and her social class. Alongside that is the fact that Guy’s relationship with Ann is far less than typical for 1950’s gender roles. According to Mary Norton the typical 1950’s family includes “male breadwinners and female homemakers” (Norton, 1st). This notion of male and female roles, is the key factor when looking at Guy’s actions. Guy likely feels emasculated by Ann and his reasons for attempting to become a politician, like Ann’s father who is far above Guy, becomes far more obvious. While wealth may change the lower class it also changes the subconscious of the already wealthy. Bruno exhibits this as he develops the idea of protection which he thinks will shield him from his actions. His wealth is evident in his self-appointed influence over everyone in the movie

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