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30 November 2007

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Chapters 25-27
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Gail

The book had a number of surprises, huh?

"I held him and comforted him as though he were Jasper."

I wouldn't say that I found this particularly ironic, but I do think it points out that their roles are reversed now.

Rebecca is one of the few books we read where we actually see what happens to the characters after the action of the story. In the beginning of the book, we see what became of Maxim and Mrs. deW2. It ain't pretty. I think Mrs. deW2 is now companion/caretaker to Maxim, just as she was to Mrs. Van Hopper when he met her. He is a broken man--not because of the guilt of having murdered Rebecca, IMHO, but because he lost what he'd killed her for. He was a man of property, obsessed with his property and without it--without being the guy who owns/possessed Manderley, he breaks.

Manderley is incredibly important. It appears in the first sentence of the book and, though unnamed, in the last sentence. Without Manderley, Maxim is nothing but a wanderer. He doesn't have work, he doesn't have anything. And poor Mrs. deW2 had hitched her wagon to his star so she's dragged along with him.


Gail

Forgive me for going on and on, but I really liked this book.

Here is the 19th Century novel it has been compared to--Jane Eyre. This was the first time I've read Rebecca since I learned of that comparision and since I became a Jane Eyre fan. I think the parallels are striking:

A poor orphaned young woman meets an older, wealthy man who, in his youth, was tricked into marrying a woman who destroys his chances for a normal life. Said man owns a large estate. Said man has a dark secret related to his wife. Dark secret is revealed. Home burns.

Both books have an introductory pre-house piece in which the protagonist is treated badly by an older woman. With Jane, it's her aunt, with Mrs. deW2, it's Mrs. van Hopper. Both protagonists are into drawing, though with Jane it's for real while with Mrs. deW2 she mostly just talks about it. Both Rochester and Maxim have a female relative in the mix. With Rochester it's his housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax who is also his cousin, with Maxim it's his sister Beatrice. A large party figures in both books. Some suggest that Rochester's blindness at the end of Jane Eyre is retribution for trying to commit adultery with Jane. The loss of Manderley was certainly retribution for Maxim killing Rebecca. My impression is that Jack and Mrs. Danvers were in on it together and certainly meant it as retribution.

Differences? There is a lot of passion between Jane and Rochester, while I felt Maxim and Mrs. deW2 had very little chemistry. Jane and Rochester are also far, far more powerful figures than Maxim and Mrs. deW2. When Jane finds out that Rochester is married, she has the integrity and character to walk away. Mrs. deW2 finds out her husband killed Rebecca, and can only think that this is actually a good thing for her and immediately goes to work supporting him.

mordena

I forget who commented here (or maybe another blog) that "you have to remember, it's not really a romance." I think that's true. Jane Eyre is a romance -- she, too, reverses roles with Rochester, but there is always a certain sense in which they are equals. Whereas with the deWinters, it's all about the creepy. It seems to be a romance, but it ends up playing with all those conventions and giving you a relationship which is NEVER equal.

Elizabeth

Just when you think Beatrice couldn't get any more awesome, she starts imagining Commie plots everywhere (perhaps she's related to my mother-in-law?) Favorite character, hands down.


http://leakydinghy.blogspot.com/2007/11/great-read-chapters-25-27_30.html

Becky

http://readingwithbecky.blogspot.com/2007/11/reading-rebecca-pt-9.html

I don't find Rebecca to be a romance, either. While I find Jane and Rochester to be equals as far as strength of character and personality are concerned (and neither Maxim nor Mrs. deW2 have much of either of those), they aren't equals socially. Rochester losing his house and his sight and needing Jane makes them social equals.

By the way, while I've read the comparision between Rebecca and Jane Eyre in a couple of different places, I've never found anything that determined it was intentional. I don't know much about gothic literature, but maybe the fact that both books deal with those elements is what makes them similar.

This morning my husband handed me a review of a book called Booked Up, which is some kind of anthology of mini-essays on books. The review included the following excerpt re. Rebecca:

'"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." With these unforgettable words the reader is launched into one of the most powerful visions of ...what? Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca is a far more complex work of art than commonly believed, being one of the half dozen greatest romance novels of the century and a subtle undercutting of the whole romance genre. It is simultaneously a devastating examination of the sexual politics of marriage, a haunting study of jealousy and psychological obsession, and a classic of suspense."'

As I've said before, maybe the basic situation in Rebecca was considered more romantic back when the book was written than it is now. Otherwise, I agree with everything the critic (John Simon) says about the book.

cc

Hooray! I totally guessed the Jane Eyre thing. What I find terribly interesting is the "bad wife" angle; it seems to me that "Rebecca" comments on this and suggests that Rochester killed his first wife.

As Gail said, however, the difference is in the characters. That almost seems like a "must be deliberate it's so striking" kind of thing. Jane and Rochester are both such willful and demanding characters (I've always though his blinding was to make him learn patience the way Jane did at Lowell House); the deWinters are weak.

Remember the discussion about anti-intellectualism a while ago? What abut that exchange between Julyan, Maxim and Frank? Where the Col. is all worried because his son writes poetry, and Frank is all, "It's okay, I used to write poetry too. But I grew out of it," and Max is like, "Well I should hope so."

I have to admit I find the ending unsatisfying. I want my clues just a little clearer. Did Favell call Mrs Danvers and tell her to burn down the house? He must have, but why would she listen to him? I feel like he becomes less satisfying as a character in the last chapters (although with a brilliant return to form when he asks if cancer is contagious).

Leila

If I hadn't been kicking myself so hard about not having seen the cancer coming, I would have howled at the "contagious" line. I think Favell called her and told her what happened, but I'd bet that she was the one who had the idea to torch Manderley.

The poetry exchange got me as well -- Maxim's line, especially.

In any kind of fight (battle of wills, brains, cage match, whatever), Jane Eyre would kick the crap out of poor Mrs.deW2 every single time. Unless it was a Who Can Delude Herself The Longest contest.

And I never felt the least bit bad for Rebecca, though I do feel that poor old Bertha did get kind of a raw deal.

Lunch break almost over, but hoping to check in a bit later.

I didn't get any kind of comment about Rochester killing his first wife. On the contrary, I think there is another contrast here. By the standards of his time, Rochester treats Bertha, his bad wife, very well. As harsh as we think being locked in the attic is these days, the alternative then was to send her to an asylum, where the conditions would have been far worse.

Maxim, on the other hand, lets his bad wife walk all over him and then kills her. Even if she did manipulate him into doing it, he did have the gun with him.

Maxim is no Rochester. But, nonetheless, I find him fascinating in all his weakness. Not attractive, just interesting.

Leila

Fair enough about the attic vs. the asylum.

I do think that Rebecca wanted Maxim to kill her. And what she wanted, she got -- she's the strongest willed person in the book, and Maxim, even before his breakdown (or whatever), was the weakest. I'm not saying he was right to do it, but I don't think he had much of a chance against her.

(And again with the Laura Palmer/Twin Peaks similarities -- there was a major conversation on the show between Agent Cooper and Doctor Jacoby, in which Jacoby opines that her death, while it was not at her own hands, was actually a form of suicide because she let herself be killed. He wasn't questioning the fact that she was murdered, or that the guilty party needed to be caught -- he was just interested in her state of mind during the time that led up to the event. She, like Rebecca, turned out to be extremely strong willed.)

Maxim is an interesting character. Actually, I found most of the characters in the book fascinating, even as they frustrated me. (Beatrice was the least interesting, I think, but I still found her completely entertaining, if that makes any sense.)

I'm looking forward to finally watching the movie soon -- I'm curious to see how seeing the action vs. reading Mrs.deW2's account of the action will change my feelings about everything.

Gail

I'm interested in watching the original Hitchcock movie, too. I read in an interview with Diana Rigg http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/archive/programs/rebecca/interview.html in which she claimed this famous movie was based on a play Rebecca, not the novel. She said Hitchcock couldn't get the rights to the book, only the play.

I'm wondering if the movie is far more of a romance. I get the impression that there are a great many people of my parents' generation who never read the book, who only saw the movie. It will be interesting to see if it's a lot different because that may be many peoples' impression of what Rebecca is.

Gail

Sorry to keep posting, but I have a question:

Now that we have all read the book, do we think it's something YAs read or would read or maybe are reading?

Becky

Gail,

I read this as a teen. I certainly think it has enough angst to appeal to teens. There is something about the crushed spirits of the characters that for some reason really appealed to me all those years ago. The could-have-beens, should-have-beens, the would-have-beens...the despair, the misery, the resolution or resolve to go through life so utterly tormented despite the fact that our narrator tries to pretend that they're not being punished--that the "devil does not ride" them anymore. I think it's obvious they're both imprisoned by the past.

Elizabeth

I dunno. I read this when I was fourteen/fifteen, and I didn't appreciate it at all. I found the very thought of Maxim disgusting (42! So old!) I missed ALL the nuanced humor, and the whole unreliable narrator thing went right over my head. Of course, these days, the YA section is crowded with unreliable narrators, so today's fifteen-year-olds might be more savvy. But I also hadn't "discovered" Gothic literature and so failed to savor that element.

I'd say the book is appropriate for YA's, but they might not "get" everything--or like it. I'd recommend it to YA's who specifically like the Gothic stuff, or liked Jane Eyre, or maybe expressed appreciation for books in the Pretty Little Devils vein.

Emmaco

Finally I'm back home! I've written up some thoughts (http://emmaco.livejournal.com/83060.html) but haven't read everyone's entries yet. And there's so many interesting comments!

The "not a romance" comment was from Sherwood Smith over at my blog, and I think I agree as well. There was just so little focus on romance between any of the characters. I've been trying to think what tage to put on the entries and think I will have to add a suspense or even gothic romance one.

I would have loved this book as a teenager. The drama of it all would have sucked me in, and I probably could have filled in the missing romance part. Although I doubt I would have been able to guess at Rebecca's depravities quite as well!

I wouldn't have really minded if Maxim was busted. He was a murderer, and not an interesting enough character that I wanted to excuse him. Maybe that's because although Rebecca sounded horrible she was still pretty fascinating.

Did anyone else feel like the ending and the start didn't match? That living in a country that you dislike is an excessive reaction to your home, no matter how beloved, burning down?

Emmaco

I forgot to add, thanks for arranging this, Leila! It's been a lot of fun - I never thought I'd want to post so many entries about one book before!

jessmonster

"Did anyone else feel like the ending and the start didn't match? That living in a country that you dislike is an excessive reaction to your home, no matter how beloved, burning down?" - YES. I kept thinking I'd missed something, some clue to explain it. Was the notoriety so bad? Were there rumors in the neighborhood that Maxim had killed Rebecca?

I was thinking of Jane Eyre the whole time - and while there are definite differences, I would be surprised if du Maurier hadn't been inspired by the Brontes in some way. In fact, I kept expecting to find out that Rebecca was squirreled away in the other wing of Manderley, having gone crazy. Until, of course, her body showed up.

I loved Jane Eyre has a YA - I first saw the movie in middle school with some friends, and we all literally jumped out of our seats when you first see Mrs. Rochester's face. Those were the days! In fact, I don't think I've read the book since high school, so I'm sure I'd pick up on more now. Like others have said, I think I would've enjoyed Rebecca as a teen, but most of the unreliable narrator and the weirdness of the relationship between the deW's would've gone over my head.

Jane could totally take Rebecca. And Maxim wouldn't stand a chance against Mr. Rochester, even blind. Jasper Fforde should do a book where the Jane Eyre and Rebecca characters end up in the same world.

I haven't read a book this closely in a while - thanks for organizing this!

And one last thought - I watched the Masterpiece Theater version a few nights ago, and was struck by a few changes. First, Maxim strangles Rebecca (he brings the gun, but tosses it aside when he realizes Jack isn't there). Second, the deW's share a bed, and there are several scenes of them in bed, talking, which definitely adds more of a sense of intimacy to their relationship than the book does, where they never seem to really connect (physically) until Mrs. deW2 learns that her husband has killed Rebecca. So the movie loses some of the coldness between them, although it's still there to a degree. Plus, since it's NOT told from a narrator's point of view, you lose the sense of unreliability, and Mrs. deW2 seems much more sane because you don't see all her little "perhaps Maxim will have a car crash" fantasies.

Leila

Can I just say that I'm so embarrassed that I didn't pick up on the Jane Eyre similarities, even after Manderley burned? It took Gail saying it for it to click.

The ending made sense to me. Manderley was the one thing that Maxim really loved, regardless of whatever love he professed for Mrs.deW2. (I still don't buy that. I still think he was attracted to her pretty much solely because she was Rebecca's opposite, and I just don't think that's love. It's fear of Rebecca. But maybe I'm being too hard on him.) I think that the burning of Manderley meant, to Maxim, that Rebecca had won.

He was of the opinion that Colonel Julyan was fully aware that he'd killed Rebecca -- that knowledge combined with his fear of gossip would make it impossible for him to go home again. (Or rebuild.) If he refused to divorce his beast of a wife just because of the possibility of gossip, damning himself to a miserable, loveless marriage in which his partner delighted in humiliating him, then there's no way he'd go anywhere where there would very definitely be gossip. He's like a fourteen-year-old, paranoid that every whisper is about him.

He's a weenie. I felt for him, and I admit it(!), I wanted him to get away with it (but then, I'm half in love with the TV version of Dexter, so my sickness-of-mind is apparent), but I still think he's a wimp.

I am SO excited to watch the movie. I'm going to update the Netflix queue right now. (I suspect that Josh will be very, very happy to see the end of Rebecca. I recommended it to a random lady at the Post Office today.)

I've enjoyed this all so much! I'm so glad that you guys jumped in on it -- I'm thinking of doing it again, maybe in February. That is, by no means, a hint to stop talking about the book. I just wanted to, you know, say thanks.

Gail

I was fine with the life Maxim and Mrs. deW2 live post action. I felt Maxim was a broken man. He had truly been a man of property, a shallow guy whose identity was wrapped up in his house. He had broken the laws of man and God for that place, and now it was gone. He was a man without a home, wandering. This was his retribution for what he had done.

I am so into this, huh?

A friend of mine just read Rebecca for the first time while we were reading it. She totally didn't buy that he broke over losing Manderley. "Why didn't he just build another house?" she asked.

She's read all Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next books and says that he refers to Mrs. Danvers in one of them.

Gail

I updated my Netflix queue yesterday, adding Rebecca. They had the movie listed and added it to my queue as "Saved" but it didn't look as if it's available. I don't know if it's not out on DVD or what.

Leila

Yeah, she was in his recent book -- and now, after having read Rebecca, I don't think he did her justice. She was an Eeeeevil Agent-type -- oh, and she had lots and lots of clones. Danvers Clones, a whole army of them. Thursday would get away from one, and three more would show up.

But she wasn't nearly as creepy as the real thing.

Leila

I just found that out. Arrrrg. And we don't have a VCR. Time to go visit my dad. I bet he's got a VHS copy of it. (And a VCR to boot!)

Emmaco

As I just wrote on my blog's comments, I think I was just expecting the thing that caused the social embarrassment to be greater. I should have taken Maxim's weeniness (I have never used the term weenie in my life I don't think. The internet enriches us all) into account! But Gail, the dramatic nomadic ending as just desserts for killing Rebecca is an explanation that I can completely accept as well.

Jessmonster, the introduction to my book (written by someone called Sally Beauman) thought that the marriage was only consummated in those last chapters. I was surprised at this assumption, I thought there had been some honeymoon comment that implied sex but perhaps that was my interpretation of it.

Beauman also notes that the setting of Cornwall is never raised. This surprised me as I certainly thought of Cornwall in my mind (perhaps because it's in the west and because of another of her novels being set there) and when I mentioned Rebecca to someone at work, they said "oh, that book set in Cornwall?".

She also says it is a "bitter final irony" that the Mrs deW2 becomes in the end what she was in the start - "a paid companion to a petty tyrant". I think that's a good observation.

Elizabeth

Oh, that is an interesting take--that she has come full circle. Again a companion, mistress of nothing.

I noticed that, while Maxim mentioned the possibility of Mrs. DeW2 having children several times during the book, I didn't get the feeling from those first dismal chapters that was still a possibility. There was no mention of kiddies there, and the lifestyle she described didn't sound kid-friendly. Maybe Maxim was too "broken" by events for kid-making, or maybe he doesn't see the point now that there's no Manderley for them to inherit.

cc

I'm so sad this is over, it's been so much fun jumping in and running with all the things everyone else noticed and I didn't. BUT, Gail never explained about the art! Or did we kind of cover it in the course of discussion and I just missed it?

Anyway, I'm totally ready to do this again.

Gail

Oh. What got me all excited about the art was that I realized that it was another parallel between Rebecca and Jane Eyre. Both Mrs. deW2 and Jane shared art as an interest. I didn't want to explain that early on, because once I did, then I was afraid some of the Rebecca story would be given away--that Maxim had a secret regarding his wife, that there might be a fire.

I definitely felt Mrs. deW2 went full circle, becoming a companion and caretaker. I hadn't actually thought of Maxim as a petty tyrant, but in terms of neediness, I can buy that.

And, yes, I felt that the nomadic existence we see at the beginning of the book is taking place well after the timeline of the the narrative and that the deWinters are established in a barren existence, including childlessness.

But "the marriage was only consummated in those last chapters"??? That surprises me, too. While we never get any hot and heavy sex scenes, it seems to me that this neurotic, jealous young woman would have dwelt on the lack of physical affection from her husband if it had never occurred. Even before we find out about Rebecca's sexual carryings on, she seemed like an overtly sensual person and Mrs. deW2 would have had some kind of distress if she had never gotten anything from Maxim at all. Surely she would have been much more unhappy as she approached her life at Manderley. Surely she would have realized that something was very, very wrong.

Elizabeth

Leila, I can't wait to see which book you pick for Feb. It's gonna be hard to top this one. You should have sandbagged a little.

It might be a little early for suggestions, but since we're all digging on the Gothic Jane Eyre derivative (and I don't mean that disparagingly) can I nominate Wide Sargasso Sea? I've heard it's the Jane Eyre prequel. Anybody read it?

Gail

I've read it. I didn't care for it, but that's not to say others wouldn't. It's about Rochester and Bertha out on whatever island where he met her. The style is dramatically different. I found it to be a sort of difficult book.

Elizabeth

Oh. Never mind, then. I like good books. And I looooooove melodrama.

cc

I'd just like to recommend John Sutherland's "Can Jane Eyre be Happy" (and in fact all of his "Puzzles in Victorian Fiction" books). The English prof whose office I borrow every summer had a few of them, and I wickedly borrowed them without permission and then loved them so much that I bought the rest for him.

Anyway. Sutherland covers the Rochester/Bertha thing really well over the course of a couple volumes and the rest of the books are delightful. ("If this sort of thing keeps on Literary Criticism will get a good name..." is a paraphrase of one review. The books cover: How did Lady DeBrough get to know of Elizabeth and Darcy's engagement? What did Lady Dedlock die of?, Did Heathcliffe actually kill Whatzizname or just let him die? vel. sim. I loved them, and they pushed me to read a lot of things I hadn't previously (Armadale, Mill on the Floss).

mordena

I've read Wide Sargasso Sea, and I liked it, though Rochester comes off less than sympathetic. It's kind of a mood piece, but I found it very interesting.

kendal

is their any irony in this story

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