Talking about Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (SPOILERS!)

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Talking about Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (SPOILERS!)

1Charon07
Maio 16, 7:45 pm

I recently read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for the BingoDog, and over in Cheryl’s (LadyoftheLodge’s) thread I happened to bemoan not having a book club to discuss it with. She generously suggested we could discuss it, so to avoid cluttering her thread and to avoid having to use a ton of spoiler tags, I’ve started this thread and invite anyone who’s interested to share their thoughts about Rebecca. There are apt to be plenty of spoilers, so be warned if you haven’t read it yet!

The first thing that struck me about Rebecca is how morally ambiguous just about everyone is, but particularly the nameless second Mrs. de Winter. (And how about that lack of a name?) Plotwise, it invites comparison with Jane Eyre, but there Jane is upright and devoted and while the “mad woman in the attic” might not be responsible for her actions, it’s hard to find a “good” side to them or to her. In Rebecca, things just aren’t as clearcut. And I think there’s at least a master’s thesis in psychology and motivations of Mrs. Danvers.

I’d also be interested in hearing if anyone’s read Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman and what you thought about it.

2LadyoftheLodge
Maio 17, 4:14 pm

Our on ground group read this book for May and discussed the book last week. We talked about how mousy Mrs. de Winter (the nameless one) seemed and wondered why we never got to know her name. She did not seem to have much to say for herself, at least not at first. Some in the group wondered why she married Maxim without asking much about his first marriage. We all agreed that Manderley was a creepy place and that this book is the iconic Gothic novel.

It would also be interesting to have a hand writing analysis for Rebecca, since her hand writing was mentioned often as an identifier.

3DeltaQueen50
Maio 17, 11:28 pm

It's been years since I read Rebecca but I often count it among my top five favorite books of all time. I also love the 1940 Hitchcock film that was made of the book with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. I think the unnamed Mrs. de Winter had little to no self-esteem. She had worked as a paid companion and had been very much under the thumb of her employer. I think Max de Winter was deliberately looking for a quiet, easily controlled wife after dealing with Rebecca. As she was starting to come into her own by the end of the book, it would be interesting to see how the marriage developed after they left Manderley.

4Charon07
Maio 18, 12:57 pm

I thought about giving up on the book early on, because I was coming to despise the mousey, spineless narrator. Fortunately, I found her imaginative descriptions of the people and places around her engaging enough to carry on. Her lack of a name seems to underscore her insignificance, or since she’s the one telling the story, her lack of self-esteem.

Mrs. Danvers, though, and her obsession with Rebecca! Do you think she was blind to Rebecca’s flaws, or did Maxim exaggerate those flaws? Or was Mrs. Danvers aware of the sort of person Rebecca was and simply admire her flouting of societal conventions?

5DeltaQueen50
Maio 18, 8:10 pm

It's been a long time since I read the book or watched the film so I hope I am not getting the two confused as there are differences. I think Mrs. Danvers was bat-sh_t crazy! I think she started off admiring Rebecca but that admiration soon became obsession. I think Rebecca saw that admiration and encouraged it by giving her the pet name "Danny" and making it seem like they were a team, giving her power and position in the household. I believe that Danvers saw Rebecca's flaws as attributes. She helped Rebecca cover her tracks and was so jealous of the new Mrs. de Winter that she kept setting her up for failure. I think she and Rebecca were a dangerous combination and if Rebecca hadn't died that they may have ensured an accident happened to Max de Winter.

6LadyoftheLodge
Maio 21, 11:22 am

I agree with >5 DeltaQueen50: comments about Mrs. Danvers. In the course of the story, we learn that Mrs. Danvers had been with Rebecca since Rebecca's childhood and there are already events that foreshadow the woman Rebecca would become.

I also found it interesting that Rebecca could so easily fool others into believing that she was an angel! That sounds to me like some kind of psychiatric condition or just plain evil.

Another comment in our onground book club was about the name of Rebecca's sailboat, "Je reviens."

Did anyone else in our discussion here find they were rooting for Max, even though he was a murderer? "She had it coming to her" was our general consensus.

7Charon07
Maio 23, 8:29 am

I’m suspicious that most of what we know about Rebecca’s evilness comes from her murderer, via a narrator who’s been known to lie to her former employer and is highly motivated to think badly of Rebecca. While it’s clear that Rebecca was no angel, I wonder about Max’s character. Is he in love with the second Mrs. de Winter? I don’t think so—I think he was looking for an “easy” push-over of a wife who was more amenable to his lifestyle, after disposing of the headstrong rebellious first Mrs. de Winter. And while it’s clear that Mrs. Danvers is batsh*t crazy, as DeltaQueen points out, I think there were probably reasons why she admired Rebecca. I think the narrator isn’t entirely to be trusted: I think she’s silly and childish and apt to frame the story like a child would, full of hyperbole and more wishful thinking than sophisticated morality, like a fairy tale where the prince, despite his flaws, is good and anyone who comes between her and the prince is a witch or a wicked godmother.

8LadyoftheLodge
Maio 23, 12:53 pm

I do not think Max was in love with the new Mrs. de Winter. Maybe she was a convenient cover up too? Maybe an opportunity to create an heir to Manderley?

It is interesting to consider the beginning of the book and why Max and Mrs. were in exile?