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Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier

Chapters 18-19

Chapters 15-17

Chapter 20

Summary

The next day dawns damp and foggy. Beatrice has left the heroine an encouraging note, but Maxim has disappeared. The heroine calls Frank Crawley at the estate office, but he hasn't seen her husband. She tells Frank what she believes, that Maxim will never love her, that he will always be in love with Rebecca; Frank, appalled, insists that he come down and talk with her, but she hangs up on him. After wandering about the grounds in the fog, she sees Mrs. Danvers watching her from the windows of the west wing, and decides to go upstairs and confront the housekeeper.

She finds Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca's bedroom. "You've done what you wanted, haven't you?" the heroine says. "You meant this to happen? Didn't you?" Mrs. Danvers, who looks suddenly old and ill, lashes out defensively, accusing the heroine of trying to take Rebecca's place, telling her that Maxim does not love her, that he still loves Rebecca. Then she describes Rebecca as a young woman-- how "she had all the courage and spirit of a boy," how beautiful she was, how perfect, how every man who saw her fell in love with her, from her cousin Jack to Maxim to Frank Crawley. "They were all jealous, all mad for her," she says, almost ecstatically; "[Yet] she did not mind, it was like a game to her." And then her voice changes, grows soft and hypnotic. "Why don't you go? ... He doesn't want you, he never did. He can't forget her... It's you who ought to be dead, not Mrs. de Winter." She leads the heroine to the window, and they look down on the terrace, far below; Mrs. Danvers begins to urge her to jump, to take a quick, painless death on the stones below. "There's not much for you to live for," she insists, "Why don't you jump now and have done with it?" The heroine, having fallen into an almost trancelike state amid the fog and the housekeeper's soft voice, looks down and considers jumping. Just at this moment, however, a boom of guns issues from the cove, and the trance is broken. A ship has run aground near Manderley, and the women hear the footsteps of Maxim running across the terrace and down to the sea.

The heroine goes down to the water, leaving Mrs. Danvers behind. The ship has been stranded about two miles offshore, and divers have been sent down to see if it can be shifted. Maxim has taken an injured sailor to see a doctor, and for most of the afternoon the heroine stays on the cliffs, along with some curious locals, and watches the divers and tugboats work to try to dislodge the boat from the bottom of the cove. Finally, she returns to Manderley, but Maxim has still not arrived back. The harbormaster comes to see her, however, and he has news. The divers have found the wreckage of another boat at the bottom of the cove--the same boat that Rebecca took out on the night she died. And there is a body in the cabin.

Now Maxim appears. The harbormaster repeats his report to him, and then departs. Left alone with her husband, the heroine asks him to forgive her for her mistake with the costume, but he brushes her apology aside. "It's too late, my darling," he says. "We've lost out little chance of happiness." When she asks him what he means, he divulges to her the truth behind Rebecca's death: the body in the cabin is not someone who sailed with Rebecca, it is Rebecca. And Maxim knows this because he killed her--he shot her in the boathouse, took her body out in the boat, and let it sink to the bottom of the cove.

Commentary

In gothic fiction, weather tends to mirror the psychological state of the characters. The fog that rolls over Manderley the morning after the party is symbolic of the fog that lies heavily over the heroine's mind; she seems dazed, wandering uncertainly through the house and grounds, and telephoning Frank in a desperate state. The ensuing confrontation with Mrs. Danvers is also enshrouded in the fog, which rolls in through the open west-wing window as the housekeeper urges the heroine to kill herself. In a way, Mrs. Danvers seems vulnerable at this moment--she looks, the heroine thinks, "like an old woman who was ill and tired"--but underneath she is still strong: her voice holds a hypnotic power, and the heroine seems to lack the strength to resist her. Indeed, perhaps she does not want to resist her: Mrs. Danvers tells her what she herself already believes to be true--indeed, what she has just finished telling to Frank Crawley: that "Mr. de Winter is not happy," and that he will never forget Rebecca. "He's still in hell," Mrs. Danvers claims, "and he's looked like that ever since she died... Why don't you leave Manderley to her?" To the heroine, this suggestion seems to make perfect sense. She feels that she has failed, both in her marriage and in her bid to make Manderley her own; it now appears, amid the fog and Mrs. Danvers's urgings, that the annihilation of her physical self on the terrace stones is a logical next step, even a welcome one. "The pain would be sharp and sudden as [Mrs. Danvers] said," she thinks; "...the fall would break my neck. It would not be slow, like drowning. It would soon be over. And Maxim did not love me. Maxim wanted to be alone again, with Rebecca."

Only the boom of the rockets saves her; this boom announces that Rebecca has been found, and marks the beginning of an unraveling process: now the lies that have entangled the heroine in ignorant confusion begin to unwind. It is one of the novel's ironies that the discovery of Rebecca's body represents both disaster and redemption for the novel's hero and heroine; for while the event opens Maxim up to a danger of arrest, it also destroys the secrets that he has, quite logically, kept from his new wife, and enables her to see her marriage clearly for the first time. The emergence of Rebecca's body from the sea symbolizes the emergence of the truth, buried for a time beneath the waves, and also marks the end of Rebecca's power over the heroine. In that sense, the moment in the west wing where the heroine almost kills herself is the true turning-point of the novel, even more than Maxim's revelation that he killed Rebecca. The heroine's suicide would have been the final triumph for Maxim's dead wife: she would have succeeded in destroying both her rival's psychological self and her physical body. The rockets, bursting over the ocean, put an end to that possibility; they announce the disclosure of the truth that saves both her body and her spirit.

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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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