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					Eram Haider

AP Senior English—3rd

Mr. Besch

May 16, 2012

                                    Wild Child (Crazy Wife)

       Rebecca, a gothic romance novel by Daphne du Maurier, is a special kind of novel in its

genre—it both follows the fads of this genre almost strictly, while deviating completely from

these aspects that are generally used in gothic romance novels. These deviations and twists are

what are wild in Rebecca. The most famous gothic romance novel would be Jane Eyre, by

Charlotte Bronte, and some major plot points include the concept of the former wife, hidden

away, that influences the lives of the living; a romance between an older man and a younger

woman; and a mansion that is burned to the ground. Rebecca contains all of these. Rebecca,

however, is wild in the sense that the twists in the mystery are not only unexpected, but are

unheard of. That is why this novel was a bestseller in the 1930s, when it was published.

       The narrator, the heroine, is nameless, and we know that she married a rich man called

Maxim de Winters, and that their home has burned to the ground, leaving them destitute.

Through flashbacks, we learn that the heroine met Maxim in Monte Carlo, married him, but

never knew whether or not he truly loved her—her employer tells her that he only married her

because he could not stand being alone. This doubt, along with talk of his late wife, Rebecca,

causes her to see herself as unworthy and inferior. Rebecca seemed perfect—clever, charming,

beautiful, and powerful. The heroine had, according to her, none of those qualities. When she
arrives at her new home, traces of the last mistress remain; including a shrine devoted to

Rebecca, kept by the obsessed housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. In fact, she continually tries to

undermine Maxim’s second marriage; she despises the new mistress and takes advantage of the

narrator’s inability to assert herself as the new Mrs. de Winter. She even tries to convince her of

suicide, saying “Why don’t you go? We none of us want you. He doesn't want you, he never did.

He can't forget her. He wants to be alone in the house again, with her. It's you that ought to be

lying there in the church crypt, not her. It's you who ought to be dead, not Mrs. de Winter” (246).

Mrs. Danvers keeps the spirit of Rebecca alive in the Manderley estate, and this spirit keeps the

heroine from realizing Maxim’s love for her.

       The wild aspects of this novel come from the unnatural ways that du Maurier wrote the

novel, as well as the twists. The fact that the main character, the narrator, is nameless

dehumanizes her and dissolves her identity. Indeed, the search for her identity, and the strange

integration of Rebecca’s, is a major theme of the novel. Rebecca’s presence in everyone’s

memories keeps her from becoming the new Mrs. de Winters. For most of the novel, the dead

Rebecca is more the mistress than the narrator is, and the fact that a dead character has more

precedence than the main character is wild.

       Another crazy twist that really changes the entire book is the fact that for the majority of

the book, Rebecca is seen as perfect—the glamorous wife with a happy marriage—and Maxim is

interpreted as a man still in love with his dead wife. These two things lead to the insecurities that

the heroine faces throughout the novel—and she seems to fight a losing battle; however, the wild

twist that no one not only anticipated but was innovative in this line of storytelling was the fact

that Rebecca was not the perfect wife; in fact, she was quite the opposite: pure evil. While there

were plenty of clues throughout the book, the point of view of the narrator is narrow and in
denial—she hears the clues but never actually connects them. One clue is when she speaks to a

retarded man, who, through his simplicity, realizes Rebecca’s true nature. He says, “ Tall and

dark she was. She gave you the feeling of a snake. I seen her here with me own eyes. By night

she'd come” (154). This revelation along with others showed that the late Mrs. de Winters was

evil. The second innovation that was wild is the fact that she did not just drown, but was

murdered by Maxim. To believe that he loved Rebecca dearly for the majority of the book, only

to have the entire paradigm shattered with one confession, was incredibly unexpected. What

makes this wilder, though, is that readers realize how absolutely horrible Rebecca is to Maxim,

making the second-half of the book unheard of as well: a reverse detective story, where the

readers sympathize and root for the murderer—Maxim—and do not want him to be caught for

the murder of his evil wife. To his second wife, he explains, “‘‘You thought I killed her, loving

her? I hated her, I tell you, our marriage was a farce from the very first. She was vicious,

damnable, rotten through and through…Rebecca was incapable of love, of tenderness, of

decency. She was not even normal’” (269). Though the word of a murderer may be debated, the

clues throughout the novel allow for all the pieces of information to fit into place, arriving to the

conclusion of Maxim’s story. Yet another wild twist occurs when we find that Rebecca was

terminally ill and sterile, and wanted Maxim to murder her, so that she may not only get her swift

death, but that Maxim would be punished after her death once the murder was found out. Maxim

knows this, and says to his wife, when the murder seemed to be inevitable solved,

       Her shadow between us all the time. Her damned shadow keeping us from one another.

       How could I hold you like this, my darling, my little love, with the fear always in my

       heart that this would happen? I remembered her eyes as she looked at me before she died.
          I remembered that slow treacherous smile. She knew this would happen even then. She

          knew she would win in the end (265).

Maxim and the narrator did finally live “happily” together—the terminal illness allowed for a

motive of suicide—but the price for eliminating Rebecca from their lives meant the burning of

Manderley, the estate that both Maxim and the narrator loved, despite their experiences there.

They were left destitute and scarred, but the end of the novel finds them healing.

          Daphne du Maurier’s novel would not have been so famous if not for these wild twists

that were innovative in the gothic romance genre, as well as complex psychological applications

to the entire story. Within two years of publications, Alfred Hitchcock produced a film based on

the novel, which was nominated for Best Film in the Oscars in 1940. This immediate popularity

was due to the novelties that du Maurier invented in her novel. This plot is now seen almost in

every detective show and has impacted modern media quite a bit. The novel itself is still very

popular today, and this endurance of the tests of time demonstrates the novel and du Maurier’s


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