David. We hear this name throughout Hitchcock's Rope. But we get only one glimpse of David -- while he's being strangled. As the camera tracks back, we see that the active strangler is Phillip, Brandon standing at his side holding David's body upright in a tight, steady grip. Both men wear gloves as a barrier between their victim and their touch. Once David is stashed away in the living room chest, we see no more of him. But we keep hearing his name: "David," spoken by Brandon, Phillip, Rupert, his father, friends, and potential fiancée.
Hitchcock's Rope follows a Gothic trope here, in that it constructs "David" as less a person than an idea, a body and thus a complex symbol: an object signifying other things. We've seen this in Edgar Allan Poe's work with names such as "Madeline," "Roderick," "Usher," "Ligeia," and the old man in "The Tell-Tale Heart," whose so-called friend reduces him to an object in focusing--with both curiosity and disgust--on his cloudy eye. We've seen this many times before in Hitchcock, as well, with names like "Mother," "Thorwald," "Madeleine," and "Charlie." So, what does "David" represent in Rope? One thing? Many things? Things that are out in the open and that go unnoticed? Things that are bubbling beneath the surface of this polite society of friends and family?
Rope is so full of in-jokes around Brandon and Phillip's homosexuality, it would be too easy to say, simply: David is a representation of repressed homosexuality in an oppressively heteronormative society. In fact, the film associates murder and the impulse towards violence so clearly with homosexual sex and love, it risks charges of outright homophobia. These issues are barely hidden in the film, coming to a kind of fruition when Rupert tells Phillip and Brandon that David "could live and love as you never could." Spectators of the film may read it within or against such claims. But what happens when we turn the focus to David or "David"?
Explore this question in relation Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." What does comparing the two works reveal about the significance of the old man in Poe and David or "David" in Rope as symbols? You may wish to revisit the film's ending speech by Rupert. You may also wish to draw comparisons to either "The Imp of the Perverse" or "The Black Cat," both of which we will discuss Wednesday.
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