Rebecca

Daphne Du Maurier

A new bride tackles the memory of her widowed husband’s late wife.

I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.

A classic tale of Gothic literature, Rebecca is recounted by an unnamed narrator, a young woman who is searching for a path in life. Initially working as a companion to a wealthy American woman, the narrator becomes beguiled and suddenly swept up into romance with George Fortescue Maximilian “Maxim” de Winter, a handsome widow with whom she swiftly becomes engaged. Following her accepting his proposal, she accompanies him to his Cornwall mansion, Manderley, where she finds her fairy tale romance challenged by the memory of her husband’s deceased wife and the cold and overshadowing Mrs Danvers, loyally devoted to the former Mrs de Winters, Rebecca.

Rebecca is laced with deceit and shrouded with mystery, each discovery reveals a dark truth about the characters, leaving no one innocent in the twisted plot. The naïveté of the narrator becomes clear as she is manipulated not only by her love for her husband and his confessions but also the psychological games played on her by the sinister Mrs Danvers. The intrigue surrounding the character of Rebecca is enticing and drives the reader to discover more as we slowly find out the source of her power. A clear match for readers who love all things gothic, Rebecca also has an appeal to those drawn to romance with the love of the narrator for Maxim at the heart of the novel. There is also something for lovers of mystery novels as it plays out similar to a typical murder-mystery with Rebecca the victim and through revelations, we understand her death.

How does the fact that the narrator’s name is never revealed affect the novel?

Do you think Maxim de Winters actions show love for the second Mrs de Winter or do you think that his feelings aren’t clear?

Do you think that du Maurier was trying to make a point by having the relationship between the narrator and Maxim become strained after the marriage?

Does the concept of the second Mrs de Winters in Rebecca’s gown have a metaphorical connotation as well as a literal point in the plot?

Do you think it was right that Maxim didn’t have to face punishment for murdering Rebecca? And do you think the reaction by the second Mrs de Winters to Maxims confession was strange?

Discuss the flaws of the character of Jack Favell. How does the relationship between Jack and Rebecca help to disillusion the idyllic persona that Rebecca created?

Why do think Mrs Danvers has such devoted loyalty to Rebecca? Do you think her obsession with Rebecca likely increased following Rebecca’s death?

The character of Ben is the first character to share a negative opinion of Rebecca, he also appears to be mentally challenged, how does this affect the readers belief of him?

How does the revelation of Rebecca’s cancer alter the opinion of her death by the other characters?
Why do you think Manderley was set alight in the ending?

Rebecca-Discussion-Questions.pdf

Maxim reveals the truth about Rebecca to the second Mrs de Winters, that she was a cruel and controlling woman who fictionized their marriage to seem picturesque, while they secretly loathed each other and she was an adulteress. On the night of her death, Rebecca told Maxim that she was pregnant, the child the product of one of her love affairs, she ridiculed Maxim by claiming she would announce the baby was his, entrapping him. Maxim became blind with rage and shot her through the chest, he placed the body on a boat which he then sunk to disguise the fact that he was the culprit. The narrator welcomes the news as she is relieved to know that Maxim never had feelings for Rebecca and that she no longer has to compete for his affections.

Upon an examination of the remains of Rebecca’s boat it becomes known that it wasn’t an accident. Her death is ruled as a suicide, but her cousin and lover, Jack, believes Maxim to be behind it and aims to blackmail him as Rebecca left him a note on the night of her death. It becomes known that Rebecca went to a doctor before her death and the doctor, Doctor Baker, is tracked down and consulted. The Doctor recalls that Rebecca had terminal cancer and only had a few months to live and that she could never fall pregnant as her uterus was malformed. This leads Maxim to suspect that the pregnancy was a falsehood devised by Rebecca as part of a plan to enrage Maxim into killing her as a way to spare her from the cancer while leaving Maxim guilty. Maxim and the narrator drive back to Manderley only to find it alight with flames.

The Manderley estate where Rebecca is set was based on a house called Menabilly, on the south coast of Cornwall. Daphne du Maurier leased the house for a great number of years and once said: ‘It makes me a little ashamed to admit it, but I do believe I love Mena more than people.’

Rebecca has never gone out of print since its first publication date in 1938.

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