Rear Window | Sample Notes

1. Background Information

Seeking to portray the claustrophobic and hysterical time of America in the 1950s, Alfred Hitchcock uses the lens of the protagonist in his iconic romantic thriller Rear Window to project the problematic views and social standards that pervade the society at that time. The ramifications of McCarthyism are reflected through Hitchcock’s depiction of Greenwich Village, where he draws the audience’s attention to the paranoia and mistrust that capture the community, critiquing the role of relationships and marriage as well as the importance of public responsibility through multiple camera techniques.

About McCarthyism: In the 1950s, US Senator Joseph McCarthy produced a series of investigations and hearings to expose communists. His search for communists facilitated mass hysteria and controversy in America in the 1950s as indiscriminate allegations and innumerable questionings caused people to be extremely paranoid about the internal communist threat. People were often accused of treason or even prosecuted without founded evidence.

2. Authorial Intent

Through his film, we can see that Hitchcock aims to criticise the lack of engagement and sense of community in the apartment complex, which acts as a microcosm for the American society in the 1950s. He also questions whether the sancity of domestic privacy should supersede the importance of public responsibility, in particular, whether one should be allowed to infringe others’ sense of privacy for the greater good of the public. Aside from this moral dilemma, he also explores the role of relationship, lambasting the protagonist for his reluctance to commit and promoting the positve aspects of such commitment. Hitchcock also adopts a largely feminist view, shifting his focus to chastising the patriarchal norms of America in the 1950s through his construction of a strong female character base.

Hitchcock always maintains a balanced view towards everything, discussing both sides of the issues that he brings up. For instance, while he acknowledges the detrimental aspects of marital entrapment, he does not disregard the marital bliss that some couples enjoy. This is why it would be beneficial if you guys all have a table of authorial intent, for and against, each theme to make your brainstorming process quicker and more effective under exam condition. Here are some examples to help you out!

3. Authorial Intent by Themes

I explore four themes in depth, mainly because most ideas (e.g. love, marriage, privacy, justice, etc) fall under one or more of the following themes. The notes I’ve got on the theme of relationship are included below for your references.

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Relevant to: marriage, love, community, commitment, entrapment, etc

Possible essay topics:

  • Rear Window offers a negative view of couples’ relationships.’ Discuss. (VCAA 2019)
  • Rear Window explores the importance of relationships.’ Discuss.
  • ‘Characters in Rear Window are all entrapped in their relationships.’ To what extent is this true?
  • Hitchcock warns the American citizens of the detriments of co-dependency. Is this true in Rear Window?
  • Rear Window underlines the difficulties of marriages and relationships. Discuss.
  • ‘The protagonist’s concern about relationship represents the views of Americans in the 1950s.’ To what extent is this true in Rear Window?
  • Rear Window shows that it is possible that an individual might feel estranged in their own relationships or community.’ Do you agree with the statement?
Promoting freedom and individual autonomy, Hitchcock undermines the importance of relationships and establishes the detriments of co-dependency.Illustrating the ubiquitous desire for love and emotional stability, Rear Window establishes the necessity of relationships during this era
The negative implications of marriage are portrayed through Jeff’s act of voyeurism as the interactions between his neighbours personify his fear of marital entrapment.The importance of such connection is also epitomised through Hitchcock’s use of Jeff’s neighbours, establishing his appraisal of stable relationships
 Hitchcock also acknowledges the difficulty of relationships through the incongruous differences between those already in a relationship.He establishes Jeff’s ambivalence towards relationships through his act of voyeurism and the events he observes
Having explored the pervasive fear of commitment of the American society in the 1950s, Hitchcock establishes his critique on the self-absorbed attitude of certain characters and the ways in which it inhibits successful relationships.Hitchcock also exemplifies the importance of relationship through his depiction of the ways in which it provides individuals with a sense of purpose, which is a universal and intrinsic desire.
He also illustrates that being surrounded by a crowd does not protect individuals from loneliness, using this as a warning to paranoid citizens in America.Despite his portrayal of commitment seekers as somewhat desperate, he does support their desire for emotional stability and willingness to sacrifice to achieve that goal.
He also satirically highlights the irony of modern day living as the lack of engagement between the neighbours is thoroughly investigated and critiqued.Rear Window also underscores that it is imperative to find a suitable partner as the right companion can help people overcome the feeling of entrapment


‘Through solving the murder mystery, Jeff also resolves some of his concerns about relationships.’ Discuss.
Set in an epoch of McCarthyism, Alfred Hitchcock’s romantic thriller “Rear Window” expounds the complexities of human relationships, presenting both the reluctance to enter relationships and the intrinsic desire for emotional stability of characters. Through his adherence to the art of pure cinema, the director illustrates the ways in which the protagonist resolves his concerns about the relationships by involving himself in a murder investigation. In particular, his observation of his neighbours and the investigation enables him to locate his subconscious fears and establishes his ambivalence towards relationship. Additionally, his journey to exert justice allows him to look past the façade of his perfect wife and realise the potential positive effects that emerge from relationships. However, his concerns are only resolved to a limited extent as his observation of others in a way aggravates his relationship issues, leaving him estranged in his relationship while simultaneously solidifying his fear of marital entrapment.

For full detailed notes, check these out!

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