Can you please explain the theme of "the innocent man on the run" in Hitchcock's  North By Northwest?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The idea of "the innocent man on the run" is something that is strong in Hitchcock's work.  Thornhill is literally at the wrong place at the right time.  His motion of his hand when a bellhop calls out for "Mr. Kaplan" makes him the ultimate innocent man.  He nature of being "on the run" is to both extricate him from that situation in which he has been thrown in and also to find out into what he has been placed.  Thornhill is placed in a very existential situation and his struggles become the basis for the film.  He is "on the run" from forces that he does not fully understand and from forces that he perceives wishes to do him harm.  There is little recourse for him, as few believe him, contributing to the idea that he has to be "on the run" because no one is going to immediately assist him and provide him shelter.  Hitchcock uses this idea to heighten the dramatic tension.  In many films, we see a variation of this same idea where protagonists struggle to make sense of something that is larger than them and something for which they had little role in causing.  It is to this end that drama is created and through which conflict is navigated, something that makes Thornhill a man on the run seeking to better understand the predicament in which he exists and one that seeks to undermine his own sense of innocence.


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