Rebecca | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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Rebecca | Chapter 27 | Summary

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Summary

After the meeting with Dr. Baker, they are all shaken and rather stunned by the news of Rebecca's illness. As the narrator and Maxim drive away with Colonel Julyan, Favell makes one last threat to "get" Maxim, saying, "The law can get you yet, and so can I, in a different way ... " but no one takes him very seriously. Colonel Julyan invites them to dinner, but Maxim declines, saying that they will continue to Manderley that night. Colonel Julyan recommends that Maxim and the narrator leave the area for a "holiday" until the matter blows over and people have moved on to another topic of gossip.

Maxim and the narrator stop at a restaurant for dinner. When Maxim calls Frank, he learns that Mrs. Danvers has disappeared, having packed up and left through the woods instead of the gate. As she continues her meal, the narrator thinks about how things will be different at Manderley from now on. Both relieved by the fact that Baker's news has exonerated Maxim and strengthened by the knowledge that Mrs. Danvers is gone, she decides to take a more authoritative and active role there.

In the car, the narrator dozes and dreams that she sees Rebecca staring back at her from a mirror. Maxim brushes Rebecca's hair that "twist[s] like a snake." He takes the hair with his hands, smiles at Rebecca, and puts it "round his neck." The dream wakes her with a start, and Maxim tells her they are near Manderley now. She sees that, though it is still nighttime, the horizon is bright and "shot with crimson, like a splash of blood." Manderley is burning.

Analysis

Instead of being horrified or terrified for her own safety, the narrator simply accepts Maxim's crime, just as her only identity is to attach herself to him as "Mrs. de Winter." She encourages him to "forget" and "not think about it anymore" because the events are "finished." But they are not, as the fire proves.

Manderley's burning raises unanswered questions, just as the final plot turns do. Favell's last words to Maxim suggest that he will take his revenge, and perhaps he is the arsonist who torches the house. Mrs. Danvers flees Manderley by way of the woods, which could also imply guilt. Or, since du Maurier presents a gothic setting, it is possible that the ghost of Rebecca brings about the final fire. She is the cause, figuratively if not literally. The narrator's dream of Rebecca in front of her mirror shows that Rebecca's spirit will continue to haunt both her and Maxim.

Manderley symbolizes the past, and when it burns, it should take the past with it. The sea wind, symbolically, carries its ashes to the narrator and Maxim in the last line of the novel, as they approach the burning house: "And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea." As the sea represents Rebecca, especially her sexuality, it is she who has the last word.

The ending can be read in two ways. A gothic reading delivers a happy ending in which the main character triumphs over her adversary and achieves a happy marriage. A more cynical reading leaves the reader with more ambiguity. The narrator has claimed her place as the second Mrs. de Winter, but through her complicity with Maxim's murder of Rebecca, she is doomed to a nomadic, rootless life. Readers might ask whether she is any better off than she was as Mrs. Hopper's companion. The ending raises more questions than it answers.

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