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  • Topic: Raymond Chandler, Philip Marlowe, Literature
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  • Published : March 22, 2011
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Anil’s Ghost, Rear Window and 2 ORTS: crime fiction genre, texts, contexts, values and techniques

“While the genre of crime writing covers a wide diversity of texts, these texts all engage with investigating a crime and associated social and moral issues”

Conventions shape a text and are adopted to suit a specific audience or contextual purpose. The genre of crime writing covers a wide diversity of texts that through the composer’s contextual influences and intentions conform to or subvert the archetypal crime writing conventions and themes such as the investigation of a crime and the associated social and moral issues involved. ‘Rear Window’ a highly cinematically geared 1954 film by Alfred Hitchcock, ‘Anil’s Ghost’ a prose fiction by Michael Ondaatje, ‘The Big Sleep’ a 1946 film by Howard Hawkes based on the novel by Raymond chandler and ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-time’ a 2003 novel by Mark Haddon exemplify the enduring nature of crime fiction as it is adapted through various social and historical contexts to resonate important ideas to their respective audiences.

The classification of ‘Rear Window’ by Alfred Hitchcock as a classic piece of crime writing is due to its exploration of the conventional nature of the crime, setting, a sense of mystery and tension that is embodied throughout the text and the intellect of a detective figure necessary to attain a denouement. Renowned as ‘the master of suspense’ Hitchcock achieves tension and suspense by taking innocent, ordinary characters and placing them in a situation beyond their control where a vulnerable victim is murdered. The combination of thriller with crime is illustrated through the use of several cinematic devices such as sound and lighting. Throughout the final scenes where Jefferies is confronted by Thorwald, the re-curing flash of the camera light bulb which dissolves into complete darkness heightens suspense and the anticipated thrill within Hitchcock’s respective audience, reflecting his subtle subversion of the genre to suit his purpose. The juxtaposition of silence and urgent whispering with the digetic booming sounds of Thorwald’s menacing footsteps forebodes the characterisation employed by Hitchcock to enable the establishment of a villain detective reflecting how the text engages with crime and its associated social and moral issues.

The engagement of crime investigation to solve social and moral issues is captured through a voyeuristic exploration of society. The mise-en-scene throughout the film conveys the enclosed, typical hard boiled crime fiction urban setting where the crime occurs within a fragmented part of society, denoting the thematic concern of human nature. Hitchcock’s characterisation of Jeffery’s as an invalid subverts the traditional role of the detective yet through the use of point of view shots he acts as a surrogate for our knowledge, portraying the voyeuristic nature of society “we grown to be a race of peeping toms” (stellar) whilst conforming to the notion of the detective’s moralistic stance on justice and the quest to restore order.

Similarly, characterisation of Lisa and Stellar as the dominant figures over Jefferies portrays the emerging social role of women as liberated and independent in Hitchcock’s prevailing social context. Lisa’s influence and female intuition “A woman never goes anywhere but the hospital without packing makeup, clothes, and jewellery” sees the subversion of the typical singular police/detective role as she alongside Jefferies, Stellar and Doyle is an integral part in the crime’s denouement. Hitchcock adheres to the conventions of crime writing through the use of red herrings being the inclusion of romance and sub-plots such as Miss lonely hearts, distracting the audience from the essential nature of the crime whilst reflecting his entertainment purpose by addressing the social and moral issues of the context, reflecting the diverse nature of...
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