”Don’t Look Now,” opens with John, a British tourist in a small town outside of Venice, noticing two elderly twin sisters sitting at a nearby table. He and Laura, his wife, create wild scenarios to describe the sisters and their possible business in Torcello. The couple joke like this for some time, giving John some hope that his wife is getting over a recent traumatic event. Laura decides to follow one of the sisters into the bathroom to see if she is a woman or a cross-dresser. Meanwhile, John thinks about the recent death of their five-year-old daughter, Christine. Her death was a huge blow to Laura, and John hopes that their vacation will ease her pain.
A few minutes later, Laura emerges from the bathroom looking shocked. She tells John that the sister in the bathroom explained that her twin is a blind psychic. She had been staring at John and Laura because she had “seen” Christine sitting between the couple, laughing and happy. “You see, she isn’t dead, she’s still with us,” explains Laura happily. John is not so pleased at this turn of events. “It’s what I’ve been dreading. She’s gone off her head,” he thinks. John is doubtful and worried but, because Laura seems happy, he grudgingly accepts the incident.
Later at a cathedral, Laura is engrossed with the architecture and art. John suddenly sees the twins, much to his dismay, although Laura does not, and the blind sister’s eyes are fixed on him. He feels ”an impending sense of doom” and is unable to move, thinking, “This is the end, there is no escape, no future.” He becomes angry and grabs Laura for a walk along a canal.
Back in Venice, Later That Evening
John and Laura, relaxed and back in their Venetian hotel room, make love and get ready for dinner at a restaurant. They take a walk before dinner but get lost in the tangled back streets of the city. Suddenly, John sees from the corner of his eye a small child, in a cloak with a hood covering her head, running away from someone. Laura has already moved up the street and does not see the incident, and he does not share it with her.
They find a restaurant, but just as they sit at a table and order drinks, John sees the twin sisters being seated, too. He is suspicious that either the sisters are following them or Laura told them where they would be eating that night. Much to John’s dismay, Laura sees the women and goes over to speak to them for a long while.
When Laura returns to their table, John is drunk and angry. Laura tells him that the blind sister has had another vision that Christine is unhappy and that John is in danger and must leave Venice as soon as possible. This talk enrages John, and they fight. Laura also tells John that the blind sister believes that he is psychic but doesn’t know it yet.
When they return to their hotel, there is a telegram waiting for them, stating that their son, Johnnie, back in England, is sick and may have to undergo surgery for appendicitis. Laura decides that this means that their son is the one in danger and not John.
The Next Morning
Laura wants to leave immediately for England to be with Johnnie, but John is less concerned and feels that booking a train for the next night should be sufficient. Laura is insistent and manages to secure a seat on a charter flight with a group of British tourists. John must drive by himself to Milan to pick up the train, and he is not happy about it.
After Laura leaves, John takes a ferry to San Marco to pick up his car. He is sure he sees his wife, looking distressed, on a ferry returning to Venice. She is with the twin sisters. John returns to his hotel, but no one has seen or heard from his wife or the sisters. A check with the charter company confirms that the plane left on time with all its seats filled. Although this would seem to indicate that Laura indeed took her reserved seat on the plane, John nevertheless constructs a scenario in which Laura never intended to catch the plane and instead ”made an assignation with the sisters.” Or possibly, he thinks, the twin sisters somehow tricked Laura, in her agitated state, and kidnapped her.
John goes to the police station to report Laura’s disappearance. While there, John meets a British couple who tell him about a murderer loose in the city. A policeman listens to John’s story, including his suspicions about the twin sisters’ possible involvement.
John returns to the hotel and places a phone call to the headmaster’s house, whose wife assures him that Johnnie has gone through the surgery well. He is relieved at the good news about his son but shocked when she puts Laura on the phone. He tries to explain to Laura his confusion about her whereabouts.
Later at the hotel, the police show up to take John to the station, where they are holding the twin sisters for questioning. John tries to explain the mixup to the police and apologizes to the twins. The sighted sister explains to John, ”You saw us… and your wife too. But not today. You saw us in the future.”
On the way back to his hotel, John sees the frightened little girl in the cloak and hood again, this time with a man in pursuit. He is worried for her, especially now knowing about the murderer. He follows her into a room and bolts the door against the man chasing her. The hood slides away, and the little girl turns out to be a “little thick-set woman dwarf … grinning at him.” John hears police outside the door, but the dwarf throws a knife at him, which sticks in his throat. As John dies, he realizes that his vision of Laura and the sisters on the ferry is the future when his wife returns to Venice to pick up his body.
Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 14, Daphne du Maurier – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.