Questions of innocence and guilt: child abduction and the representation of mothers in post-war British cinema

Fink, Janet (2012). Questions of innocence and guilt: child abduction and the representation of mothers in post-war British cinema. Families, Relationships and Societies, 1(2) pp. 191–206.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/204674312X645510

Abstract

The figure of the missing child is a recurrent and highly visible feature of past and present culture, the concern not only of extensive reporting in the media but also a frequent motif in the cinema, theatre, popular fiction and autobiographical memoirs. This article is focused upon the ways British feature films of the 1950s and 1960s portray the experiences of losing a child through kidnap or abduction, exploring in particular how mothers were represented. Through an examination of the complex and contradictory discourses through which motherhood and the maternal role were constituted in these films, the paper considers what they reveal about the shifting meanings of the mother-child relationship and the dynamics of gender relations in the home and post-war society more generally. The films discussed are Lost (1956), Tomorrow at Ten (1962) and Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964).

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