Help on my letter to board of Studies retaining Crime as an elective? (1 Viewer)


Jan 24, 2014
Hey, so for extension english we have to write a letter to the board of studies complaining about their decision to cut crime genre from the syllabus. In it we have to use Rear Window as a text, and draw upon our knowledge of crime fiction. Here's mine. Any critique would be great

To: The Board of Studies

Crime is an everlasting genre – it serves as a reflection of society, offering prospective audiences the opportunity to escape into a world that they can relate with, yet never legally be a part of, a rare conundrum. Unlike many genres, crime writing will never cease to have relevance, the nature of human society ensuring that crime writers will have constant material. Crime writing entertains an style of plot outlined by Ronald Knox in his 19th century Detective Decalogue; the morally abiding detective and complementing antagonist, the numerous red herrings, the denouement and eventual restoration to order and of course, the actual crime. When considering crime’s everlasting and perpetuating nature, coupled with the genre’s elaborate plot structure, why then have you elected to remove it from the extension English syllabus? Through its study, students are permitted an insight into the inner workings of society, both modern and classic. In your deliberation, consider ‘The Rear Window,’ by Alfred Hitchcock; adapted from Cornell Woolrich’s, ‘It had to be Murder,’ ‘The Rear Window,’ is an appropriate vehicle for displaying the aforementioned conventions, representing the 20th century fear of, ‘the red meanace.’ ‘The Rear Window,’ does well in displaying the American attitude towards communism at the time, the familiar backyard setting an appropriate environment to promote the ‘keep an eye on your neighbours,’ slogan of the era. Red Herrings are particular in Hitchock’s masterpiece, the panel of lives witnessed by Jeff drawing the audience attention away from the crime at hand. Red Herrings represent plot devices used to distract the viewer, sub-plots, almost. Completely unrelated to the crime, the emotions of Ms Lonely Heart are sufficient in drawing the attention of the watchful Jeff, providing heightened feelings suspense and intrigue. Finally, ‘Rear Window,’ demonstrates the natural return to order, the capture of Thorwald and return to peace representing the denouement of the film.

One of the things that makes the crime genre so enriching is its ability to directly reflect the criminal element in society – while it is true that most texts are influenced by context, by capturing the prohibited nature of humanity, crime writing is able to enrapture viewers through the mystique and danger of crime in a way that very few other genres are capable of. Feeding off the relish that audiences feel in immersing themselves in relatable, yet legally foreign environments, crime writers can push the boundaries between fictional elements, partially owing to its significance as a genre. In the 1950s, America was very much gripped by the fear of the communist party; although less than 3% of the population supported the communist party, the terror of being subverted into a controlled society was very real. Hence came the ‘Better Red than Dead,’ and ‘Keep an Eye on your neighbours’ slogans, inducted to keep the public free of communism control. This attitude is reflected in ‘Rear Window,’ the entire film representing the latter motto. The opening shot, where Hitchcock reveals the panels of lives surrounding Jim very much supports this statement. By using a slow panning shot, and pausing on each of the windows, the scene very much displays a voyeuristic attitude. This is enforced by Stella in her line, ‘We have become a race of peeping toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.’ Not only does this line challenge government opinion, but it also portrays Stella as a rather strong character, abolishing the sense of the classic fem fotale in the film, evidence of the genre’s evolution.

The red herring of crime fiction is an element which enables it to stand out as both an entertaining yet sophisticating genre. The narrative structure of texts feature one large complication – the focal point of the film (in the case of ‘Rear Window,’ the murder of ms Thorwald). Most texts also feature certain sub-plots to create spice in the characters and the story – to keep the tale from going stale (e.g., the love interest between Stella and jeff). In addition to this, Crime fiction includes numerous ‘red herrings,’ which are important in producing intrigue, resulting in greater audience fascinations. Red herrings are plot devices which draw the attention of the reader away from the issue at hand, furthering audience fascination. The red herring in ‘Rear Window,’ is first introduced in that opening shot – the aptly named, Ms Lonely Heart, Hithcock has depicted her right from the get go as a character of interest, her emotional nature setting her apart from the other ‘windows.’ Depressed and alone, Ms Lonely Heart invokes emotion and concern in Jeff, taking his attention (and that of the audience) off the vital plays occurring ‘on stage,’ if you will. It occurs towards the end of the film, when Stella is breaking into Thorwald’s apartment, much to the chagrin of the concerned Jeff (again breaking away from the classic fem fotal figure). Stella is dependent on Jeff to warn her if Thorwald approaches. However he is distracted by the suicidal notions of Ms Lonely Heart, tearing Jeff between his concern for Stella (who may be murdered if caught by Thorwald) and his depressed neighbour, who would almost certainly die without intervention. Hitchcock overlays the scene with light music, the alternating tones creating senses of confusion in the audience as to what would happen, further promoting intrigue. Ultimately however, her welfare is dismissed, the playings of the pianist upstairs bringing her out of her suicidal state.

The conclusion is a vital part of every text – either resolved or unresolved, the conclusion of a piece is what integrates the issues and notions put forth in the text, in an attempt to leave a lasting impression with the audience. With reference to crime fiction, conclusions are often the most powerful part of a text, determining the fates of the criminal and the detective and providing a titbit into the events of the future, regardless of the possibility of a sequel. Part of what makes crime such a fulfilling genre is the manor that most crime stories bring everything full-circle, tying up all lose ends and plot developments in one short scene. Hitchcock is very adept at this in ‘Rear Window,’ the conclusion instrumental in demonstrating the result of the characters fruition. In contrast to the scenes of action and suspense that had occurred mere moments ago, the conclusion is one of peace; the crime has been solved, the criminal captured, the detective rewarded. Hitchcock creates a peaceful atmosphere by reimagining the opening scene. Lighting is very bright (again in contrast to the previous scene), the slow panning shot and peaceful music presenting a very restful atmosphere. Life in the square is once again mundane, with even the inquisitive Jeff dozing on the bed. The film has gone full-circle.

Crime is an everlasting genre – embodying the concepts and ideals of society, it is therefore a surprise that it is to be removed from the Extension English syllabus. As seen through the exploration of genre through the text, ‘Rear Window,’ it’s ever evolving state ensures that the genre retains relevance, and as such I implore you to leave it as part of the curriculum, so that future students can explore the intricacies of the genre, the numerous red herrings and conclusive style of crime writing providing an enriching and educational experience.

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