The physical organization of space and the class divisions of society are parallel in the story. The people who live in the front part of the building are wealthier than those who live in the back part. The more expensive apartments are larger and have nice views of the city, while the cheaper apartments are smaller, and their small windows only look onto the alley. The author uses a first-person narrator to express the views of some tenants and speculate about the motivations of others.
The overall impression is that the wealthy residents took their status and prestige for granted or failed to realize the potential for violence in the unequal situation. The wealthy were shocked when one of the poorer residents killed a wealthy woman. Violence increased in the interpersonal relations between the two social groups. The author adds a Gothic twist to the story, however; rather than make any positive changes in their situation, such as moving away, the wealthy people internalize the negative aspects of the situation. The wealthy people stop taking care of themselves and their environment. The narrator cannot explain the reasons for this failure to act but understands that he too may succumb and be immobilized.