Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again... Working as a lady's companion, the (nameless) heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her... read more
While working as the companion to a rich American woman vacationing on the French Riviera, the narrator becomes acquainted with a wealthy Englishman, Maximilian (Maxim) de Winter, a 40-something widower. After a fortnight of courtship, she agrees to marry him and, after the wedding and... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
While working as the companion to a rich American woman vacationing on the French Riviera, the narrator becomes acquainted with a wealthy Englishman, Maximilian (Maxim) de Winter, a 40-something widower. After a fortnight of courtship, she agrees to marry him and, after the wedding and honeymoon, accompanies him to his mansion, the beautiful West Country estate Manderley.
Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper, was profoundly devoted to the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca. She continually psychologically undermines the new Mrs. de Winter, suggesting to her that she will never attain the urbanity and charm the first one possessed. Whenever the new Mrs. de Winter attempts to make changes at Manderley, Mrs. Danvers describes how Rebecca ran it when she was alive. Each time Mrs. Danvers does this, she implies that the new Mrs. de Winter, a mere middle-class upstart, lacks the experience and knowledge necessary for running an important estate. Cowed by Mrs. Danvers' imposing manner, the new mistress simply caves.
She is soon convinced that Maxim regrets his impetuous decision to marry her and is still deeply in love with the seemingly perfect Rebecca. The climax occurs at Manderley's annual costume ball. Mrs. Danvers manipulates the protagonist into wearing a replica of the dress shown in a portrait of one of the former inhabitants of the estate—the same costume worn by Rebecca to much acclaim the previous year, shortly before her death. The narrator has a drummer announce her entrance using the name of the lady in the portrait: Caroline de Winter. When the narrator shows Maxim the dress, he gets very angry at her and orders her to change.
In the early morning hours after the ball, the storm that had been building over the estate leads to a shipwreck. A diver investigating the condition of the wrecked ship's hull discovers the remains of Rebecca's boat. It is just prior to this shipwreck that Mrs. Danvers expressly reveals her contempt for our heroine. Taking her on a tour of Rebecca's bedroom, her wardrobe and luxurious possessions--all kept intact as a shrine to Rebecca--Mrs. Danvers encourages our heroine to commit suicide by jumping out the window, but is thwarted at the last moment by the disturbance created by the shipwreck.
The revelations from the shipwreck lead Maxim to confess the truth to our heroine; how his marriage to Rebecca was nothing but a sham; how from the very first days husband and wife loathed each other. Rebecca, Maxim reveals, was a cruel and selfish woman who manipulated everyone around her into believing her to be the perfect wife and a paragon of virtue. She repeatedly taunted Maxim with sordid tales of her numerous love affairs and suggested that she was pregnant with another man's child, which she would raise under the pretence that it was Maxim's and he would be powerless to stop her. Rebecca tries to convince Maxim to kill her, taunting him continuously. He, truly hating her, does in fact fatally shoot her. Worried that he might have to spend the rest of his life in jail, Maxim has disposed of her body on her boat, which he then has sunk at sea. Our heroine is relieved to hear he had never loved Rebecca, but really loves her.
Rebecca's boat is raised and it is discovered that holes had been deliberately drilled in the bottom and the sea-cocks were opened, which would have caused it to sink. There is an inquest and despite it not being clear who drilled the holes, a verdict of suicide is brought. However, Rebecca's first cousin (and also her lover) Jack Favell appears on the scene claiming to have proof that Rebecca could not have intended suicide. He attempts to blackmail Maxim because he believes that Maxim killed Rebecca and then sank the boat.
Rebecca, it is revealed, had an appointment with a Doctor Baker shortly before her death, presumably to confirm her pregnancy. When the doctor is found he reveals Rebecca had been suffering from cancer and would have died within a few months; furthermore, due to the malformation of her uterus, she could never have been pregnant. The implication is that knowing she was going to die, Rebecca lied to Maxim that she was pregnant by another man because she wanted Maxim to kill her, rather than face a lingering death. Maxim feels a great sense of foreboding and insists on driving through the night to return to Manderley. However, before he comes in sight of the house, it is clear from a glow on the horizon and wind-borne ashes that it is ablaze. Mrs. Danvers has set fire to it.
It is evident at the beginning that Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter now live in some foreign exile. The events recounted in the book are in essence a memoir of her life at Manderley.
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”Mrs. de Winter
“The papers were full of it of course. They say he never talks about it, never mentions her name. She was drowned you know, in a bay near Manderley ...”Mrs. Van Hopper
“If only there could be an invention...that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”Mrs. de Winter
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.”Mrs. de Winter
“Though two nights only have been spent beneath a roof, yet we leave something of ourselves behind. Nothing material, not a hairpin on a dressing table, not an empty bottle of aspirin tablets, not a handkerchief beneath a pillow, but something indefinable, a moment of our lives, a thought, a mood.”Mrs. de Winter
“Come and see us if you feel like it,' she said. 'I always expect people to ask themselves. Life is too short to send out invitations.”Beatrice
“That's what I do to Jasper," I thought. "I'm being like Jasper now, leaning against him. He pats me now and again, when he remembers, and I'm pleased, I get closer to him for a moment. He likes me in the way I like Jasper.”Mrs. de Winter
“The word lingered in the air once I had uttered it, Dancing before me, and because he received it silently, making no comment, the word magnified itself into something hideous and appalling, a forbidden word, unnatural to the tongue. And I could not call it back, it could never be unsaid.”Mrs. de Winter
“If I told you I was thinking about Surrey and Middlesex, I was thinking about Surrey and Middlesex. Men are simpler than you imagine, my sweet child. But what goes in the twisted tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.”Maxim de Winter
“My lad is different altogether. No earthly use at games. Always writing poetry. I suppose he'll grow out of it.”Colonel Julyan
“We all of us have our particular devil who rides with us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end. We have conquered ours, or so we believe.”Mrs. de Winter
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