Rebecca | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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Rebecca | Chapter 18 | Summary



The narrator finally falls asleep at seven in the morning after the ball and wakes with the sun already high in the sky. She realizes that Maxim never came to bed, and she reflects that Mrs. Van Hopper was right: she should not have married him. He does not love her and never has. He was still in love with Rebecca. She thinks, "Rebecca, always Rebecca. Wherever I walked in Manderley, wherever I sat, even in my thoughts and in my dreams, I met Rebecca." Even when Frank tries to reassure her, the narrator is convinced that Maxim thinks only of Rebecca.

She goes outside to the terrace and sees a fog rolling in from the sea. Then she sees Mrs. Danvers looking down on her from Rebecca's room. The narrator goes to confront her enemy, and the two women argue. Mrs. Danvers angrily accuses the narrator of trying to take Rebecca's place and she delivers a tirade about Rebecca's beauty and desirability. "It's no use," Mrs. Danvers tells the narrator. "She's still mistress here, even if she is dead. She's the real Mrs. de Winter, not you. It's you that's the shadow and the ghost .... It's you who ought to be dead." And with that she pushes the narrator towards an open window and urges her to jump out into the fog. The narrator seems almost to lose consciousness, and she is on the verge of following Mrs. Danvers' orders and plunging to her death when the sound of explosions cracks through the fog. The narrator seems to wake as from a trance and hears below her, on the flagstones, the sound of voices and footsteps running.


Chapter 18 marks the climax of the novel. It is the moment of greatest tension, as the protagonist literally teeters on the brink of death. The narrator has been stripped of her mental defenses by the events of the previous night and by Mrs. Danvers's unexpected anguish, and her self-esteem has sunk to its lowest level.

The theme of Jealousy surfaces as the narrator thinks of how Manderley and her own thoughts and dreams are haunted by Rebecca. Like the theme of Evil, jealousy will be shown by later plot developments to be many-faceted. The narrator cannot see Maxim clearly, nor herself. If she could, she would recognize that she and Rebecca are in fact quite similar—the two Mrs. De Winters, mistresses of a house that Maxim loves more than anything else. The difference is in their responses to their situations. Rebecca seized her feminine powers and wielded them like a weapon. The narrator, in contrast, submerges her personality almost to the point of suicide.

The explosive sounds heard at the end of the chapter are rockets signaling a shipwreck in the bay. They are a deus ex machina, a plot device in which an unexpected power or event saves the day. The term, which means "the god in the machine," dates back to Greek theater, when actors representing gods were suspended above the stage and intervened to bring about the resolution of a play's plot. It is as if Rebecca's hold on the narrator and on Manderley is so strong that only the intervention of outside powers can break it.

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