Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window and the Crime Fiction Genre

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Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window continues and expands on traditional themes of the Detective Fiction Genre. In 1841, Murder in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe broke the traditional character constraints of the Crime Fiction Genre, by introducing a new type of lead detective figure. The ideal detective figure encompassed traits of superiority, intelligence, wit and a keen sense for observation. The lead detective figure is a sophisticated character that is not bound to the constrictions and limitations of the Law and the exploration of this figure through the use of visual aid and techniques, provides contrast and variation on the common themes within the genre. Hitchcock provides an alternative approach through a new medium carving way for varied interpretations of the Crime Fiction genre.

The Detective Fiction genre is classified as a sub-genre within the Crime Fiction genre, along with the 'whodunnit' method. The 18th and 19th century saw a growth of interest in the Crime Fiction Genre due to the rise in city crime and the introduction of new prisons and growing police forces. The famous Detective Fiction writers of that era include: Agatha Christie who wrote extensive fiction novels for the audience to unravel clues; Charles Dickinson, who introduced the early method of 'whodunnit' in Bleak House (1853); John Dickson Carr who is seen to be a master of the 'Locked Room Method' and Sherlock Holmes who was popular mainstream figure within the detective fiction genre. Edgar Allen Poe was the first to introduce a fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin and most of the common themes used by other detective fiction authors are derived from Poe himself.

The common themes that are used throughout Poe’s approach to the lead detective figure, Dupin, possesses a psychological interest in the observation of human behavior. The characters Jeff and Dupin are both of an observant nature and the use of visual techniques by Hitchcock, allows the audience to observe the clues and subjects at the same rate as the detective. In Rear Window, it was Thordwell’s domestic life that initially enticed Jeff's interest and observation begins to become a key element of Rear Window. The intimate interaction, of the film, towards facial expression and human nature for both audience and detective is defined by close ups of eyes, which allows the audience to react accordingly to Jeff’s thoughts, arousing the same level of suspicion as the detective. Jeff is portrayed as a humane character with keen awareness towards human reactions and thought processes, evidence of this is shown with the remark “Thats not just any look. That's the kind of look a man gives when he’s afraid somebody might be watching him” (Jeff looking onto Thordwell with Stella). This is seen as a view of physiological inference towards human reactions, and is also displayed as a characteristic of ‘the brilliant detective’ that Poe paved way for when introducing Dupins keen senses and abilities. Dupin illustrates his observation for the pattern of human thought by linking a chain of events to Chantilly “Chantilly, Orion, Dr. Nichols, Epicurus, Sterotomy, the street stones, the fruiterer” and then displays his acute detail in to the human psyche by observing movements “You kept your eyes upon the ground..(so that I saw you were still thinking of the stones)” using these keen senses and abilities to read the human psyche, the detective figure shows he posses keen insight into their subjects. This common theme of physiological interest by the detective figure into human observation, is explored by many detective fiction writers throughout different mediums.

The irony of Jeff, as the lead detective figure is his confinement to his wheel chair and apartment due to health conditions. Jeff lacks the ability to extend his investigation beyond his apartment without involving other forces...
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