Study Guide

Rear Window Freedom and Confinement

Freedom and Confinement

JEFF: Next Wednesday, I emerge from this plaster cocoon.

The cast just goes from his toes to his hip, but it seems to him like he's living inside it.

JEFF: Yeah, can't you just see me, rushin' home to a hot apartment to listen to the automatic laundry and the electric dishwasher and the garbage disposal... the nagging wife.

The cast isn't the only thing making him feel confined. He's clearly not down with the whole marriage thing, either, which means that Lisa's overtures feel a lot like a trap to him. This is a pretty nasty thing to say about her.

LISA: Someday you might want to open up your own studio here.

JEFF: How could I run it from, say, Pakistan?

Jeff clearly views confinement in strictly physical terms here, which is why he resists becoming a studio photographer and being with Lisa. Statements like this start us thinking that all of this travel to distant places is a way of running away from something.

STELLA: You'd think the rain would've cooled things down. All it did was make the heat wet.

Heat plays an interesting role in the movie, specifically in terms of confinement. Remember, air conditioning wasn't something a lot of people had in their homes in 1954, and with New York's heat hitting triple digits, it's apt to make everyone feel really trapped and stir crazy. We don't see a single air conditioner in any of the windows Jeff looks at. Small wonder someone pops and kills a spouse every now and again.

LISA: According to you, people should be born, live, and die in the same place.

Here, Lisa turns Jeff's logic about freedom and confinement against him. She's happy to let him go all over the world, as long as she's with him. He seems to be condemning her to a life stuck in New York just because of his assumptions about what she can and can't deal with.

LISA: I wonder where he's going now?

JEFF: I don't know.

LISA: Suppose he doesn't come back again?

JEFF: He will. All his things are still piled on the bed.

Jeff is not the only one bound to his apartment. Thorwald is trying to get out and away from the scene of the crime as quickly as possible … and he can't look suspicious while doing so. He has to take it slow, leaving him stuck there until he can get away without raising suspicion.

STELLA: What do you need money for?

JEFF: To bail Lisa out of jail.

Symbolically, Lisa is enduring confinement in order to help Jeff escape his. Now, that's a girlfriend.

THORWALD: What do you want from me? Your friend, the girl, could have turned me in. Why didn't she? What do you want? A lot of money? I don't have any money. Say something. Say something! Tell me what you want!

Thorwald feels trapped by his circumstances just like Jeff does. Listen to how desperate he sounds. All he wants to do is get away and find some happiness. Is that too much to ask after being trapped with a sickly, complaining, demanding wife? It's a tribute to Raymond Burr that we can even feel some sympathy for Thorwald.

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