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Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier

Chapters 12-14

Chapters 8-11

Chapters 15-17

Mrs. Danvers hires a maid for the heroine, a local girl named Clarice, whose lack of experience makes her a perfect fit for the shy and uncertain new mistress of Manderley. The heroine is still struggling in her new role: when she accidentally breaks a valuable glass figure, she deliberately does not mention the mishap, and hides the shattered pieces at the back of a desk drawer. When Mrs. Danvers blames a servant for the ornament's absence, the heroine is forced to tell what happened, and to apologize to the housekeeper for not informing her earlier. Maxim finds the whole incident amusing, but it upsets the heroine terribly; she tells him that she feels out-of-place, and uneducated, and unprepared for her responsibilities as his wife. He tries to sooth her, but by the conversation's end she worries that the marriage is failing.

Summer has arrived, and early in June Maxim goes away to London for a public dinner. The heroine, rather impulsively, takes Jasper down to the beach again, and encounters the retarded man; his name, Maxim has told her, is Ben, and he lives on a nearby farm. He seems nervous around her, and keeps asking if she is going to put him in an asylum. But he soon warms to her, and tells her, "you're not like the other one... tall and dark she was... She gave you the feeling of a snake. I seen her here with my own eyes..." It was this woman who first threatened Ben with the possibility of life in an asylum, after catching him spying on her one day. He then turns to the heroine, asking, "She's gone now, ain't she?" but the heroine, confused, tells him that she doesn't know who he talking about, and leads Jasper back to the house.

A surprise awaits her there: Mrs. Danvers has a visitor, a well-built, good- looking man in a sports car. Both he and Mrs. Danvers seem startled when the heroine stumbles upon them coming out of the west wing--they seem to want to keep the visit a secret. But the man, whose name, we learn, is Jack Favell, recovers his poise quickly, and becomes quite friendly, inviting the heroine for a ride in his car and acting generally quite gallant--indeed, overly so. He makes her uncomfortable, and when he is gone, she suddenly wonders if he was a thief, and impulsively goes up to the west wing to see if she notices anything missing.

The west wing is deserted, but none of the furniture has been covered with dust- cloths. The heroine goes into the bedroom that once belonged to Rebecca; as she opens a shutter to clear away the musty smell, Mrs. Danvers enters. "You wanted to see the room," she says, brushing aside the heroine's flimsy excuses for being there. "Why have you never asked me to show it to you before?" Then she shows her everything--the bed where Rebecca slept, the slippers and dresses she wore, all kept just as they were, as if awaiting their owner's return. Mrs. Danvers talks about the night Rebecca died, how everyone assumed she was sleeping in the boathouse, as she often did, and how they awoke to find her boat missing, and pieces of it floating in the water. And then the housekeeper says that she thinks that Rebecca has come back to haunt the house. "Do you think she can see us, talking to one another now?" Mrs. Danvers asks. "Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?" The heroine, suddenly frightened, mutters an excuse and hurries downstairs, where, feeling ill, she lies down on her bed.

Commentary

In these chapters, the heroine's inability to assert herself, to use the authority she has been given, begins to seem almost pathetic. The scene with the broken ornament marks a low point and exemplifies her powerlessness--she is forced to apologize to Mrs. Danvers, who seems to have her completely cowed, and ends up feeling and acting like a child who has been caught being naughty. It is no coincidence that her marriage to Maxim is suffering: she is failing to act the part of his wife--indeed, she is failing to act as an adult.

Still, the heroine cannot take all the blame for her marital difficulties, for Maxim still keeps himself partially aloof from her, and still guards his own secrets tightly. (In his defense, though, his unwillingness to share his secret with the heroine becomes understandable once the reader learns the nature of it.) Meanwhile, these chapters provide more pieces to the puzzle. The heroine sees Ben again, and the retarded man again hints at the truth about Rebecca -- in his childlike simplicity he perceived her true nature ("she gave you the feeling of a snake") when everyone else was swept up by her charm and beauty. The heroine, however, persists in her blindness, failing to make a connection between his rambling description of the "dark" woman and the woman she knows as Rebecca. Meanwhile, she gets a taste of Rebecca's family, in the person of Favell, who makes his first appearance in these chapters. Favell is a stereotyped character, a "cad," to use an English term--an overly friendly, hearty type with an unpleasant streak, the sort of man who spends money easily and carries on scandalously with women. His friendliness with Mrs. Danvers-- whom he calls "Danny"--immediately signals his untrustworthiness.

Du Maurier creates a spine-chilling masterpiece of the west-wing scene; Mrs. Danvers has made these rooms into a morbid shrine to Rebecca, and Du Maurier's descriptions both of the bedroom and of Mrs. Danvers's sinister devotion to her departed mistress, set a tone that continues to echo throughout the book, and further hints at the malignant nature of the secrets yet to be revealed. (Indeed, given what we later learn about Rebecca's death, it seems remarkable that Maxim keeps the housekeeper on at all, and even more surprising that he allows her to maintain the west wing as a temple to her mistress.) Mrs. Danvers tells the heroine explicitly what until now has only been implied: that Rebecca's ghost haunts Manderley, wandering the hallways, watching everyone. "Sometimes I wonder," she whispers, "if she comes back here to Manderley and watches you and Mr. de Winter together." If so, the housekeeper suggests, Rebecca is certainly not happy with what she sees.

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Maxim's Reliability

by Pimms_delight, October 13, 2014

I disagree with your remake that to question's Maxim's account of Rebecca is to miss the point. The reason we know Maxim is telling the truth (up to a point) is because of everyone else's reactions to Rebecca. Especially Frank and Danvers.

That's what's so scary about Rebecca is that she is forever beautiful, forever young and forever unable to answer our questions. She has planned to tell Frank about what had happened in London that day so she couldn't have had some big conspiracy to get Maxim to kill her, it was probably spur of the... Read more

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