Have you ever been curious about your partner’s ex? Have you ever felt even just a little bit envious of the times they shared with your beloved, the way they knew him when he was younger, or perhaps different from how he is today? Or worse, have you ever suspected your partner might still have feelings for them, or that what they feel for you may not be as strong as their past relationship?
Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) is a novel which explores such feelings. It is a book about obsession – not the obsessive all-pervading feeling of love, but the obsessiveness of envy, hate, and the morbid fascination of a wife for her husband’s ex. Rebecca, in fact, is not as one might suppose,the name of the narrator, but the name of Mr de Winter’s first wife. The deceased, elusive, sophisticated, beautiful Rebecca, whom the reader, and in fact the narrator, never meets, but who nonetheless haunts every page, every moment, every thought.
This novel was groundbreaking in its time, and still continues to be so for a number of reasons. First of all, for example, the actual name of the narrator and main character is never mentioned. We always hear her being referred to as “the second Mrs de Winter”, but we never get to know her real name. This is very important, as it denotes that the narrator herself suffered from such low self-esteem, and gave herself so little importance, that her own individuality is barely glossed over in the overall scheme of things. Another factor is that the narrator, we realize, is not actually the real main character.
The main character is in fact Rebecca.
When the young naive narrator meets and marries Maximilian de Winter, the wealthy landowner of the notorious mansion of Manderley, she knows that he’d been previously married, and that his first wife had died in a boating accident some time before. This however leaves her unprepared for the fact that back home at Manderley, all the servants, neighbors, and acquaintances still miss and look up to her husband’s first wife – a peerless socialite, beautiful, intelligent, brave and helpful. The perfect woman, wife and partner. Her husband won’t speak of her, and flies into a rage every time she’s mentioned. The housekeeper emphatizes the fact that Mrs de Winter had always wanted things managed just so, as though she’s still there, and Rebecca’s clothes, her monogrammed stationary, even her room, is left untouched. The house is still hers, as is the neighborhood, and the narrator comes to believe that even the man she married cannot possibly have gotten over his previous marriage. She feels like everyone is comparing her to her predecessor, and finding her wanting. The novel is beautifully written, rendering the reader to empathize with the narrator, and slowly becomes convinced – as she does – that something is not right and not quite as it seems.
The rest of this article was published on EVE.COM.MT and can be read here – http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/11/12/rebecca-by-daphne-du-maurier-a-review/