Notorious (1946)

Brief Intro

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious” (1946) is a captivating espionage thriller starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains. The film masterfully blends romance and suspense, revolving around a government agent who enlists a woman’s help to infiltrate a Nazi organization in post-WWII Brazil. The intricate plot and the brilliant performances make it a standout in Hitchcock’s oeuvre.

Literary Devices Used in Notorious


Movie SceneDevice Example
The wine cellar sceneThe wine bottles as a metaphor for secrets and hidden dangers.
Alicia’s engagement ringRepresents her entrapment and loss of freedom.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Alicia working as a spyDespite her criminal background, she serves her country.
Devlin’s cold demeanorContrasts with his deep feelings for Alicia.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The key to the wine cellarSymbolizes trust and betrayal.
The poisoned coffee cupRepresents the pervasive danger and deception.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Alicia’s initial meeting with DevlinHints at her upcoming involvement in espionage.
The dinner partyBuilds tension leading to the discovery of the uranium.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The romance between Devlin and AliciaReflects themes of loyalty and sacrifice.
The Nazi conspiratorsRepresent the lingering threats of war and fascism.


Movie SceneDevice Example
References to WWII eventsGrounds the film in a historical context.
Names of characters like SebastianAllude to historical and mythological figures.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The climax in the wine cellarBuilds intense suspense through timing and secrecy.
Alicia’s slow poisoningCreates a sustained sense of dread.

Dramatic Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
Audience knowing Alicia’s role as a spyCreates tension in scenes with Sebastian.
Devlin’s feelings for AliciaKnown to the audience but not fully to Alicia.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The glamorous parties vs. the grim espionageHighlights the contrast between appearances and reality.
Alicia’s transformation from a carefree woman to a dedicated spyShows her character growth and inner conflict.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Use of keysRecurring motif symbolizing access and secrets.
Drinking scenesReflect vulnerability and danger.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Alicia Huberman

SymbolismAlicia’s engagement ring represents her loss of freedom and personal sacrifice.
MetaphorHer journey from a party girl to a committed spy mirrors the theme of redemption.

T.R. Devlin

IronyHis cold, professional exterior hides deep emotions for Alicia.
ForeshadowingHis protective nature foreshadows his eventual confession of love.

Alexander Sebastian

AllegoryRepresents the lurking threat of Nazi ideology post-WWII.
Dramatic IronyHis ignorance of Alicia’s true allegiance creates tension.

Character Dynamics

The relationship between Alicia and Devlin is a dance of trust and betrayal, intensified by the espionage backdrop. Their interactions are laced with dramatic irony, as both struggle to balance their feelings with their duties. Sebastian’s manipulative control over Alicia and his obliviousness to her true intentions heighten the stakes, driving the narrative forward with relentless tension.

Thematic Analysis

Trust and Betrayal

SymbolismThe key to the wine cellar symbolizes trust and the potential for betrayal.
Dramatic IronyThe audience’s awareness of Alicia’s true motives heightens the tension in her interactions with Sebastian.

Love and Sacrifice

MetaphorAlicia’s journey from a carefree socialite to a self-sacrificing spy reflects the transformative power of love.
ForeshadowingEarly scenes hint at the sacrifices both Alicia and Devlin will have to make for their mission and each other.

Appearance vs. Reality

JuxtapositionThe glamorous settings of parties and the underlying espionage activities highlight the contrast between appearances and reality.
IronyCharacters’ true intentions are often hidden behind a façade, creating a web of deceit and intrigue.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual and Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SuspenseUse of close-ups and quick cutsEnhances the tension during the wine cellar scenes.
SymbolismLighting and shadowsHighlights the duality of characters’ intentions, especially in scenes involving Sebastian.
IronySoundtrackThe contrasting light music during tense moments underscores the ironic nature of the scenes.

Key Scene Analysis

Wine Cellar Scene

  • YouTube Link: Wine Cellar Scene
  • Breakdown: This scene brilliantly combines suspense and symbolism. The key symbolizes trust, and the tension is heightened by the close-ups of characters’ expressions and the ominous soundtrack.

Poisoning Scene

  • YouTube Link: Poisoning Scene
  • Breakdown: The slow poisoning of Alicia is a masterclass in building suspense. The gradual revelation of her deteriorating state through subtle visual cues and the escalating tension in the music create a sense of impending doom.

Climax Scene

  • YouTube Link: Climax Scene
  • Breakdown: The final confrontation encapsulates the themes of trust and betrayal. The visual contrast between the opulent setting and the deadly stakes enhances the dramatic impact, while the characters’ interactions bring the narrative to a gripping conclusion.


Interactive Quiz

Question 1: What literary device is primarily used in the wine cellar scene to symbolize hidden dangers?

Question 2: Which character’s transformation is highlighted through the motif of drinking scenes?

  • A) T.R. Devlin
  • B) Alicia Huberman
  • C) Alexander Sebastian

Question 3: How does Hitchcock use lighting to enhance the theme of appearance vs. reality?

  • A) By creating a stark contrast between light and shadow
  • B) By using bright, consistent lighting
  • C) By avoiding shadows altogether