In Rear Window, Jeff is used to going all over the world, picking up stakes whenever there's a new assignment, and moving at the speed of his lens shutter. Now, suddenly he's stuck in his apartment, unable to go anywhere. He finds ways to move and explore, creepy and off-putting though they may be, and eventually finds his way out of his confinement.
There's a strange parallel there to Thorwald, who's also trapped by his circumstances.
After Jeff's actual immobility, this film seems to portray marriage as the next worst thing. Jeff sees marriage as the ultimate ball and chain. He's afraid that his relationship with Lisa would rob him of his freedom to pursue his career and he'd be stuck in a boring, ordinary life dominated by his wife. That's another parallel to Thorwald, who resorts to murder to get rid of his nagging wife. We're picking up a slightly 1950s, misogynist idea about marriage here—even the newlywed husband is portrayed as being "henpecked," as they used to call it.
The audience is trapped right along with Jeff; our vision is limited to the view from his apartment. This allows us to engage with the character because we can feel his frustration. But Lisa? We'd marry her in a second.
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
- What's so important about limiting the action to this one courtyard? What does that choice say about freedom and confinement?
- How does Jeff view marriage in terms of freedom and confinement?
- In what ways is Thorwald more free than Jeff?
Chew on This
Jeff's career allows a degree of freedom that most people can't even imagine.
Jeff's career only gives him the illusion of freedom because it's very limiting in other ways, like preventing the formation of lasting relationships.