How do the stories that unfold in the apartments across from Jeff’s “rear window” relate to the relationship between Jeff (Jimmy Stewart) and Lisa (Grace Kelly)? Think especially about Miss Torso, Miss Lonelyhearts, the Composer, the Newlyweds, and, of course, the Thorwalds. Consider, also, the different ways Jeffries and Lisa react to what goes on in those apartments. How does Hitchcock manage to define their relationship more clearly by playing it against the lives of Jeff’s fellow tenants?
Though there are many neighbors across from Jeff, there are a couple who seem to better represent Jeff’s apprehensions, weaknesses, or views on life and interpersonal relationships than others. On some psychological level it seems as though he realizes this, albeit not fully until well near the end of the movie. This is because he L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries spends so much time looking at others and not at himself. Jeff seems to hold everyone at a distance. He uses his photography to do this on a daily basis with strangers, which he parlays into reasons to do the same in his personal life. Behind the lens he can stay completely safe while gaining glimpses into his subjects without getting hurt, which is shattered along with the bones in his leg, by circumstance. He throws himself into this “work” of his, to which he is more than proficient. As a result of his inability to turn the view of the lense on himself, he operates in a perpetual state of mind that things merely happen to him because of others, with little culpability. He sees this as living freely.
This appears to be how his neighbor Miss Torso operates as well. She seems to devote herself to the art of her dancing. She seems to be a bit of a freely spirited type of gal who is continually on the move. Though she is always entertaining men in her apartment, she never truly lets any of them really connect with her, which is where she begins to mirror Lisa more so than Jeff. This is of course referenced when Jeff comments on Miss Torso being a queen pick with her pick of drones, to which Lisa replies, “She’s not in love with him, or any other.” The only man Miss Torso seems genuinely happy to see is her [presumed] fiancé who returns from deployment. She drops everything, lets him in with open arms, and completely focuses on him.
The other neighbors who mirror Jeff in a big way are, of course, the Thorwalds. On the surface they seem to stand for the downfalls of being married and the woes that invariable accompany such a union, according to Jeff. When delving a bit deeper, however, it is evident that the Thorwalds both represent two halves of Jeff, almost as if they were a tiny cherub and imp on either side of his psyche. The Thorwalds, much like Jeff’s internal selves, were always at war with one another; constantly fighting and berating the other until one side fought back to rid itself of the other. That fateful moment for a neighbor became his saving grace, in a way. It led to Jeff finally being able to look inside himself to see that he did not have to be free alone. Perhaps he saw, what some of the viewers did, that the bird may be caged but it still sings when fed by a loving hand.