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Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier

Chapter 21-23

Chapter 20

Chapters 24-27

Summary

The man on the phone is Colonel Julyan, the local magistrate, calling to ask Maxim if he might have made a mistake in identifying the body the year before. Already, it seems, the authorities have realized whose body is in the sunken boat. Then a reporter calls, but Maxim brushes him off and hangs up. After dinner, he and the heroine sit together for a long time in the dark, holding each other.

The next day, Manderley undergoes a transformation. For the first time, the heroine takes charge of her home, ordering Mrs. Danvers around, changing menus, and generally asserting herself. Colonel Julyan comes to lunch, and the de Winters discuss the coming inquest with him and Frank Crawley. The body in the boat has been identified as Rebecca's, and the Colonel seems to think that the whole thing will be explained as an accident: she went below, a sudden wind came up, and the boat capsized. After he leaves, Maxim tells the heroine that there was no trace of a bullet wound in the skeleton; the bullet must have only passed through flesh, meaning that he is safe, for now.

The newspapers are full of the story the next day, playing up the sensational angle, and making Maxim look like a heartless man who married a young girl while his wife's grave was still fresh. In the afternoon, the couple goes into town for the inquest; the heroine sees Favell there, and Mrs. Danvers. At first the coroner seems likely to return a verdict of accidental death. But then the man who built Rebecca's boat takes the stand, saying that he examined the wreck, and found the holes that Maxim made in the bottom; these holes indicate, he argues, that the boat was sunk deliberately. Now the questioning takes a sharper tone, with the coroner asking Maxim if his relationship with Rebecca was happy. The heroine faints and has to be taken outside.

Eventually, the coroner settles on a verdict of suicide, committed for reasons unknown, and briefly it appears that everything will turn out well. Maxim, Frank, and the heroine return to Manderley, and then Maxim goes out again, to attend the burial of Rebecca's body in a nearby churchyard. While he is gone, Favell appears. He has been drinking heavily, and he is very rude to the heroine. He tells her that he knows Rebecca's death wasn't suicide, and that he aims to see justice done. Maxim returns, with Frank, and insists that Favell leave at once, but Rebecca's cousin takes out a note that she sent him on the night she died, telling him to meet her at the cottage, because she had something important to tell him. "Not the sort of note you write when you're going to commit suicide, is it?" he asks triumphantly, and then tries to blackmail Maxim, threatening to go to the police unless he is given an annual income out of the de Winter pocket. Frank, worried, suggests that the couple yield to this demand, but Maxim refuses. He insists on telephoning Colonel Julyan and settling the matter than and there. When the magistrate arrives, Favell laughs drunkenly and tells him to arrest Maxim for Rebecca's murder.

Commentary

For the first time, the heroine seems at home at Manderley. She orders the servants about, alters the dinner menu, tells off Mrs. Danvers, and generally establishes her authority as mistress of the house, all of which comes as a palpable relief after so many months of insecurity and her consistent failure to overcome Rebecca's ghost. If the mansion is symbolic of the self, then the heroine has finally achieved psychological well-being; she is finally comfortable in herself.

And yet while the truth about Rebecca has freed the heroine to feel confident of Maxim's love, and confident of her own place at Manderley, that same truth threatens to undo her happiness. The novel now shifts into a kind of detective thriller, with the interesting twist that the readers is rooting against the forces of law and order. The story skillfully builds suspense by repeatedly having Maxim appear safe from danger, only to pull the rug out from under him. First, we learn that the bullet is not in Rebecca's skeleton, and it seems that the inquest will call it an accidental death. But then the ship-builder's testimony dashes that hope, as he reveals that the boat was sunk deliberately, and the questions from the coroner turn sharper. Finally, the verdict of suicide is returned, and again, it seems that all may be well. But hope flags again with the interference of Favell. He sits with Mrs. Danvers in the inquest, the two of them seeming to be watching out for Rebecca's interests, and the reader feels sure that both of them instinctively know the truth about her death.

In refusing to pay blackmail to Favell and calling on Colonel Julyan, Maxim seems to be acting against his own interests. And yet Maxim's decision makes psychological sense; he has wrestled with the ghost of Rebecca for so long, that he could probably not bear to have Favell hanging around, living off him, a constant menace. Maxim seems to have decided that it is better to finish the matter off--for better or worse--than live in agony.

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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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