"I get myself half-killed for you and you reward me by stealing my assignments."
"I didn't ask you to stand in the middle of that automobile racetrack."
"You asked for something dramatically different. You got it."
"So did you."
This conversation represents Jeff's inability to see his own faults; he keeps trying to blame his problems on other people. He is clearly addicted to excitement, but he can't bear to live with the consequences of chasing it. Instead of accepting his complicity, he blames the editor for reassigning his work to other photographers. This is also indicative of Jeff's skill for emotional detachment; he'd rather be an observer of life, pointing out the mistakes of others, than deal with the emotional requirements of being an active participant.
"We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their house and look in for a change."
In this moment, Stella is not only forcing Jeff to see the ethical implications of voyeurism, but she is also drawing the audience's attention to the fact that we, too, are guilty of the same thing. Stella is telling all of us to look at ourselves instead of making "psychological projections unto other people... Rear Window endorses introspection rather than voyeurism" (Spoto). However, Jeff does not heed her warning here, and eventually, draws Stella into his new hobby as well. Through Stella's transition from naysayer to accomplice, Hitchcock shows us how easy it is to become focused on the outside world while ignoring our own problems. Ultimately, Jeff does face punishment for his moral lapse; even though he is right about Thorwald, he ends up trapped inside for a longer stretch of time because of his second broken leg.
"She's not in love with him, or any of them."
"How can you tell from here?"
"You said it resembled my apartment, didn't you?"
Lisa and Jeff's obsession with the drama unfolding outside Jeff's window is symptomatic of the fact that Jeff cannot speak openly about his feelings. The best Jeff can do is talk about his issues with Lisa in the context of his neighbors. In this moment, Jeff is looking out the window at Miss Torso. He thinks that because she's young, beautiful, and surrounded by men, she is happy; he doesn't need to say that he thinks the same thing about Lisa. From a distance, it appears to Jeff that Miss Torso is simply looking for the richest or most successful man. However, the scene looks very different to Lisa. It makes her sad because she knows that Miss Torso does not want a man for his wealth or his finery; like Lisa, Miss Torso just wants to be with a man she loves. It turns out that Lisa is right; at the end of the film, Miss Torso welcomes home her pudgy soldier beau.
"I'm in love with you. I don't care what you do for a living. I'd just like to be part of it somehow. It's deflating to find out the only way I can be part of it is to take out a subscription to your magazine. I guess I'm not the girl I thought I was."
Lisa keeps trying to show Jeff that she loves him in the only way she knows how; showering him with gifts and planning glamorous surprises. Despite the fact that these are not necessarily attributes that Jeff is looking for in a wife, he fails to see what lies behind Lisa's grand gestures. At this point in the film, Lisa is completely frustrated with Jeff's inability to give her a chance; he is too caught up in the superficial aspects of her personality. Therefore, Lisa uses the Thorwald adventure as a way to prove to Jeff that she is capable of being just as "ordinary" as a girl who doesn't live on Park Avenue. She injects herself into Jeff's fantasy world instead of trying to compete with it.
"Sometimes it's worse to stay than it is to run."
In this moment, Jeff is talking to Stella about his philosophy on marriage by using his neighbors as an example. He suggests that Mr. Thorwald might be leaving his wife soon due to their constant fighting, but on a deeper level, Jeff is articulating his own fears about committing to Lisa. His injury is keeping him trapped in his apartment even though his natural tendency is to be in constant motion. Ultimately, he is afraid that any kind of commitment will tie him down and make him miserable, and he refuses to see the possibility that this might not be the case.
"That's no ordinary look. That's the kind of look a man gives when he is afraid somebody might be watching him."
Because Jeff is not able to self-reflect or deal with his feelings about committing to Lisa, he voluntarily becomes consumed by the lives unfolding outside his window. As a photographer, he is used to observing dangerous people and situations - but he is not quite so comfortable turning his analytical eye inwards. At this point in the film, Jeff has spent so much time watching his neighbors go about their ordinary lives that he is able to identify when something is wrong. In addition to that, he is projecting his need for excitement onto them.
"That's a secret, private world you're looking into out there. People do a lot of things in private they couldn't possibly explain in public."
Here, Hitchcock is using Doyle's warnings to Jeff as a way to remind his viewers to look at themselves more closely. Doyle is pointing out the hypocrisy of Jeff's suspicions about Thorwald in this scene; Jeff has not seen a murder, he has not seen a body, and everything he knows about the Thorwalds he has learned by watching them from a distance. Meanwhile, Jeff warns Doyle not to ask too many questions when he notices Lisa's negligee sitting on the table. This shows that while Jeff is quick to jump to conclusions about other people, he does not want anyone to look at his life in the same way.
"I'm not much on rear window ethics."
Only after seeing Miss Lonelyhearts' humiliation does Jeff start to consider the moral implications of his new hobby. Lisa, too, has gotten caught up in Jeff's dramatic suspicions. She has also been enjoying the extra attention from Jeff when she offers her insights on the Thorwalds; she is finally getting what she wants from Jeff. At this moment, though, Lisa also takes a moment to consider the lives of the people on the other end of Jeff's binoculars. Certainly, watching and analyzing them fulfills a need for Lisa, but this is the first time that she realizes that voyeurism comes with a price.
"You don't know the meaning of the word 'neighbor.' Neighbors like each other. Speak to each other. Care if anybody lives or dies. But none of you do."
Right after the woman on the fire escape finds her murdered dog, she implicates the entire courtyard for their lack of compassion. What she is saying here is exactly the opposite of the "rear window ethics" that Lisa and Jeff have just been discussing. Jeff has been watching his neighbors secretly from his safe perch on the second floor, but he hasn't exactly been looking out for them. Instead, his voyeurism is strictly for his own amusement. Indeed, right after the woman on the fire escape goes back inside, the rest of the neighbors return to their lives. Jeff also returns to his own agenda; he is not concerned about the woman's anguish over her dog and much more interested in proving to Doyle that his hunch is correct.
"Well, I guess I'm using that word 'we' a little freely. You're taking all the chances."
The third act of Rear Window is about Jeff taking action to prove his suspicions about Thorwald. However, he is confined to his wheelchair, ever the observer - just like a film director. Hitchcock and Jeff remain behind the camera, while their crew goes out to actualize their vision. In Jeff's case, Stella and Lisa dig up Thorwald's flowers and Lisa even goes snooping in Thorwald's apartment. Normally, as a photographer, Jeff is the one capturing the images by putting himself in danger. However, sitting at the window with Lisa as his proxy, Jeff finally understands what she is willing to go through to be with him.
Rear Window Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Rear Window is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.