Rear Window

Rear Window Summary and Analysis of Miss Lonelyhearts' Date - Threatening Thorwald


Lisa and Jeff sit in silence for a few moments, deflated after Doyle's frustrating departure. They listen to the rollicking party at the songwriter's apartment, and then observe Miss Torso doing dance exercises on her bed. Down in the lower apartment, Miss Lonelyhearts has brought home a suitor. Jeff comments that Miss Lonelyhearts' date appears to be much younger than she is. Miss Lonelyhearts closes the blinds, which only partially obscure Jeff and Lisa's view. They see Miss Lonelyhearts and her suitor start kissing on the sofa until Miss Lonelyhearts pushes him off and slaps him across the face. She yells at him and throws him out of her apartment.

Afterwards, Miss Lonelyhearts collapses onto her sofa in tears. Jeff recalls Doyle's warning about peeping into people's private lives; he wonders how ethical it is for him to be looking into other people's apartments with binoculars and a long-focus lens. What might people think if they were looking into his apartment? Lisa responds that they would see two people who are "plunged into despair because [they have found out] that a man didn't kill his wife." She refers to herself and Jeff as "frightening ghouls" before closing the blinds and saying, " the show's over for tonight." She then takes her night case into the bathroom and reemerges in a sexy pink silken nighty. Just as Lisa and Jeff have started flirting, though, a loud scream emerges from behind the closed blinds.

Lisa opens the blinds again to see the woman on the fire escape weeping. Her husband comes rushing outside to see their little dog's dead body on the ground next to the flowerbeds. Now, everyone else in the apartment complex takes notice and stands on their balconies to see what the commotion is all about. Miss Lonelyhearts examines the animal's corpse and says that the dog has been strangled and its neck is broken.

The woman on the fire escape loudly admonishes her neighbors for being heartless and unfeeling as her husband reels up the dog's basket with the deceased animal inside. Cut to a medium shot of Miss Torso as she watches the miserable scene unfold. The devastated woman on the fire escape wails, "Did you kill him because he liked you? Just because he liked you?" and then goes back inside. Her husband follows, carrying the dog's body. All the other neighbors go back to their lives. Back in Jeff's apartment, he points out to Lisa that Mr. Thorwald was the only person in a courtyard-adjacent apartment who didn't come to his window. They look into his apartment; he is sitting in the dark, smoking a cigar.

The next day, Lisa and Stella stand beside Jeff while he uses his camera to spy on Mr. Thorwald, who is washing the bathroom walls in his undershirt. Stella comments that there must have been a lot of blood splatter when Mr. Thorwald killed his wife. While Lisa balks at Stella's choice of words, Stella insists that she's only verbalizing what all three of them are thinking.

Jeff asks for Lisa to bring him some slides he took of the backyard. He points out that the flowers in Mr. Thorwald's flowerbed have gotten shorter over the course of two weeks and Stella claims that there must be something buried there. She thinks that parts of Mrs. Thorwald are buried all over town. Jeff, Lisa, and Stella huddle and decide that they have to find Mrs. Thorwald's body before calling Doyle again. Then, they see that Mr. Thorwald is packing. Jeff asks for a pencil and a piece of paper and writes a note that reads, "What have you done with her?" And puts it in an envelope addressed to Mr. Lars Thorwald.

Later, Stella and Jeff watch from a distance as Lisa goes to deliver the letter to Mr. Thorwald's apartment. While Mr. Thorwald smokes a cigar inside, Lisa slips the envelope under his door and runs away. Mr. Thorwald comes outside, but Lisa manages to run into the stairwell before he sees her. Jeff focuses on Mr. Thorwald's face as he reads the letter, whispering, "You did it, Mr. Thorwald. You did it!" Thorwald suddenly jets out of his apartment, but Lisa manages to hide from him. Stella and Jeff nervously watch Lisa's escape.

Stella asks Jeff if she can use the camera for a while and spies on Miss Lonelyhearts, who is about to take some sleeping pills. Lisa returns and points out that Mr. Thorwald is holding his wife's handbag again. He packs it away in his suitcase. Jeff speculates that Mrs. Thorwald's wedding ring is one of the pieces of jewelry that they saw him taking out of the bag, and Lisa posits that Mrs. Thorwald would never leave her wedding ring behind. Stella backs her up emphatically, saying that the only way anyone could get her wedding ring would be to chop off her finger.

The two women decide to go see what's buried in Thorwald's flowerbed. Jeff tries to talk them out of it because he's worried that something will happen to them. He offers to run an interference to get Mr. Thorwald out of the apartment so that Stella and Lisa can dig up the flowers safely. Jeff pulls out the phonebook and looks up the Thorwalds' phone number. He calls Mr. Thorwald, who stares at the phone for a long time before picking it up. Jeff asks, "Did you get my note?" Thorwald wants to know who he is; Jeff asks Thorwald to meet him in the bar of the Albert Hotel. Thorwald puts on his hat and leaves.


When Miss Lonelyhearts' date goes awry, it is a turning point for Jeff. Witnessing the woman's assault and her private despair suddenly makes him see what Stella, Lisa, and Doyle have tried to show him since the beginning of the film; what happens in people's homes should remain private. Lisa's reaction to the scene, however, shows that her complicity with Jeff has had an ulterior motive all along. Lisa quickly snaps back to her original opinion about Jeff's sleuthing, calling both herself and Jeff "ghouls" for getting frustrated that Mrs. Thorwald might not be dead. She then uses Jeff's moment of vulnerability to stage a private, intimate moment of their own. She closes the windows and tells him, "the show's over for tonight," and promises "a preview of coming attractions." In this moment, Lisa is taking Jeff (and, concurrently, the viewer) out of the act of voyeurism and making us look within ourselves, at what exists behind our curtains instead of focusing on what is outside the window. She is doing exactly what both Doyle and Stella tried to force Jeff to do earlier in the film.

The scene in which the little dog's murder is revealed is unusual for many ways. For one, this is the first time in Rear Window that Hitchcock reveals the entire courtyard, rather than in a limited view, from Jeff's perspective. The shot of the woman on the fire escape yelling at her neighbors is taken from outside Jeff's apartment. There are also medium shots of Miss Torso and Miss Lonelyhearts taken from objective angles, which make this scene feel objective in comparison to the rest of the film. Because of this, the pleas of the woman on the fire escape are not just aimed at Jeff and Lisa, but also at the viewer. Jeff and Lisa are a microcosmic representation of the pervasive self-involvement that has infiltrated modern society, but this scene shows us the problem on a macroscopic level. Additionally, Hitchcock used to say that he liked to save establishing shots for "dramatic purposes", and not simply to show the viewer where he or she is situated. Certainly, his use of a wide shot here increases the tension surrounding the dog's death; the entire courtyard stops to listen.

Jeff, however, does not heed the passionate words of the woman on the fire escape. Indeed, all of the other tenants go back to their lives, while Jeff leaves the windows open and goes back to thinking about Mr. Thorwald - but that is not because he is concerned about the victim. Instead, Jeff makes this new revelation all about himself. "You know," he tells Lisa, "for a minute, that Tom Doyle almost had me convinced that I was wrong." Lisa, clearly still hoping for a romantic night, counters, "But you're not?" Her tone conveys her disappointment at having to return to the Thorwald business once more, right when she and Jeff have just started to get close. Once again, Jeff is obsessing over his neighbors' lives instead of confronting his own. He simply remains incapable of looking at himself too closely.

The next day, it's back to business as usual; the dynamic between Lisa and Jeff has not changed. For the first time, Stella and Lisa are both in Jeff's apartment at the same time, and Hitchcock takes this opportunity to highlight the differences between the two women. For all of Lisa's insistence that she can live out of a single suitcase, she grimaces when Stella describes, in gory detail, her theory about how Mr. Thorwald chopped up his wife's body in the bathroom and buried parts of it all over town. But, as in previous scenes, Lisa quickly snaps back into her Girl Friday character when she realizes that Jeff does not share her disgust at the idea of dismemberment. This scene shows the difference between Lisa's public and private behavior. Out on the town, she is a glamorous fashionista, but behind closed doors, she is lonely and desperate for love. Here, she realizes that she must participate in Jeff's fantasy instead of trying to compete with it; the lingerie may not have worked, but her boldness in investigating Thorwald sure does.

Stella is the only person in the apartment who uses Jeff's spying tools for compassionate purposes; she alone has lived up to the woman on the fire escape's call for her neighbors to care about one another. While Lisa is creeping up to Mr. Thorwald's apartment to deliver the threatening note, Stella asks to use Jeff's camera and immediately turns it on Miss Lonelyhearts. She is the one who notices that Miss Lonelyhearts might need help; while Jeff is more concerned with being right about Thorwald. After Lisa has delivered the letter, Jeff zooms in on Thorwald's face and whispers, "You did it, Thorwald, you did it!" The close-up makes it appear that while Jeff is whispering his accusations, Thorwald is looking at Jeff, but it is an illusion created by the camera. This is yet another example of Jeff's hypocritical behavior. He maligns Doyle for not investigating the Thorwald case thoroughly enough, but Jeff himself is more interested in finding out what happened to a woman who may already be dead than saving the life of a woman who is considering taking her own life right in front of his eyes.