Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Woolrich. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Woolrich. Show all posts

16 October, 2014

Cornell Woolrich, "It Had to be Murder"


The current issue, Fall 2014, of Zoetrope: All-Story, includes the short story that was the basis of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie, Rear Window. The story, like the movie, is suspenseful.

The noir story is told in first-person and is 14 pages long. There are many suspenseful sentences in just the first two pages that moves the action along at a nice clip. "It would have killed them to stay home one night..."

"If I had an ill wife on my hands..."

"Before it did, I withdrew several yards inside my room, to let it go safely by. I didn't want him to think I was prying into his affairs."

"His stare betrayed external preoccupation, outward interest."

"...I hadn't seen the woman all day."

"As though there were no one to remove it for anymore."

"The first link, of the so-strong chain of habits, of custom, that binds us all, had snapped wide open."

While the obvious theme is of killing and murder, another theme can be said to be about "delayed action."  The protagonist realizes the significance of "a sort of formless uneasiness, a disembodied suspicion, I don't know what to call it, had been flitting and volplaning around in my mind, like an insect looking for a landing place."

The author uses "delayed action" several times in the story to point out that sometimes we don't really know what we've seen, we've only been looking and the significance might become apparent later when we realize we've seen something.

This issue of the journal was designed by Martin Parr.