Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, by Eva Mære


The narrator in Rebecca may be seen as the conventional romantic heroine, as she is the inexperienced, naive and dreaming child bride of a handsome, powerful, rich and condescending man. Being the second Mrs de Winter, the narrator is haunted by the suspicion that her husband is still in love with his dead first wife. Her fear and insecurities stem from feelings of inadequacy compared to the glamorous and brilliant Rebecca, who is still referred to as Mrs de Winter. Her fear of being inferior to the Other Woman stretches so far as when she learns that her husband killed his first wife, she is surprisingly indifferent. Instead of questioning the fact that she is married to a murderer, she is relieved to know that he never loved his first wife, saying: ‘None of the things that he had told me mattered to me at all. I clung to one thing only, and repeated it to myself, over and over again. Maxim did not love Rebecca. He had never loved her, never, never, never.’ (271)


Consumed with the assertion that Maxim only loves her, she never reflects on the idea that she might be in danger herself.
While Maxim seem to be guided by a “Madonna-Whore Complex”, believing himself to be justified in killing Rebecca in punishment for her promiscuity, Mrs Danvers, as Bernadette Bertrandias has noted, presents Rebecca as ‘a complex amalgam of attributes which, above all, transgress gender boundaries’. Rebecca is on the one hand described as being ‘lovely as a picture’ with a good sense of style, while on the other she has ‘the courage and the spirit of a boy’, and a diverse and ambivalent sexuality. According to Bertrandias, Rebecca’s strength is a ‘rejection of the social and cultural one-dimensional definition of femininity and the assertion of a multifaceted, complex and independent personality.’ Through Mrs Danvers’s presentation, the reader is allowed to form their own opinion of Rebecca, and reflect on the double standard limiting women to either be chaste ‘Madonnas’ or promiscuous whores.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Salma AlTabari on February 20, 2016 at 1:22 am

    The parallels that Bertrandias draws between Jane Eyre and Rebecca are quite interesting, especially when one considers how both men (Maxim and Rochester) seem to justify certain acts that contradict their moral stance, making them hypocrites. Maxim complains about Rebecca’s immoral behaviour, yet does not seem to find any problem with committing murder – an immoral act. And Rochester keeps reassuring Jane that he did what was best for his first wife, and uses words like “safety” and “comfort” and “shelter her degradation with secrecy” to explain how locking her away was a merciful act that he did for her benefit and protection. This makes no sense, since she is locked away and becoming more and more insane through isolation, he shuts her away for his own benefit, not hers; he is the one who wants to be shielded from degradation.


  2. Posted by Eliza on February 23, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I think that the heroine’s prioritisation of security within her relationship with Maxim, while appearing a bit insane considering his homicidal tendencies, makes absolute sense. It’s all about security, and security ‘is when everything is settled, when nothing can happen to you; security is the denial of life’ (Greer). Life, with it’s unavoidable vicissitudes, is necessarily not secure. With this in mind, it is hardly surprising that the dead, independent and rebellious Rebecca seems far more alive than the heroine, who gets progressively paler and faint as the novel progresses, only finding strength as her source of security (Maxim) is secured at the end.


  3. While Rebecca clearly has links with Jane Eyre, their heroines could not be more different. The fact that we are never told the narrator’s name and we follow her begin to have an obsession with Rebecca and the old ways of the house she is now a part of reinforces the idea that women should be put against each other. Despite the fact that she knows her husband is a murderer later in the novel and that he isn’t entirely pleasant to her through the novel, the narrator merely assumes that his version of events is true and that Rebecca deserved being murdered. This is a fascinating look at relationships and ‘the other woman’.


  4. Posted by Christie on February 23, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    I agree with Salma, in that it could be argued that both Maxim and Rochester feel threatened by Rebecca and Bertha’s transgressive and powerful natures and thus murder/isolate the females in an attempt to save their own reputation. Maxim justifies his actions through Rebecca’s own immoral behaviour, whilst her diagnosis as extremely ill towards the end of her life seems to lessen Maxim’s crime in the eyes of the narrator. Similarly, Rochester justifies his locking Bertha away through her diagnosed madness and for her own ‘safety’. In both stories, doctors are involved in the oppression of the transgressive female, emphasising the great role that doctors had in the oppression of females – particularly female sexuality – in the Victorian era.


  5. I couldn’t shake the feeling when reading this that it was so ahead of it’s time in terms of critiquing the normal domestic roles and aspirations. As mentioned in this blog, this can be seen in the narrator being definitely more preoccupied with her domestic role and wifely duty than her own safety or mental health.


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