Rebecca | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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Rebecca | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

After a short but carefree honeymoon, Maxim and the narrator return to Manderley to assume the responsibilities of ownership. They arrive in May, in what Maxim says will be "the best moment, before the full flush of summer." Though it is raining in London, it is sunny when they arrive at Manderley, which seems to bode well. Nonetheless, the narrator feels a sense of unease as she approaches the estate, wishing she were going to a small cottage in a village instead.

The long drive leading to the house seems to last forever and begins to "nag at [her] nerves." Then suddenly they find themselves surrounded by rhododendrons that form "a wall of color, blood-red." They arrive at the house to find that the hall is filled with people. The narrator feels ill with apprehension but awkwardly enters and is greeted by "someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black." This sinister figure is Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper.

The narrator and Maxim go into the library, which is musty and dark. Soon afterwards, Frith, the butler, and a footman serve tea and Maxim reads his letters. The whole process is quite formal and it makes the narrator think longingly of their more relaxed honeymoon.

Presently, Mrs. Danvers comes to show the narrator her room in the east wing. The narrator is somewhat intimidated as she walks the length of the long flagstone hallways with the skeletal housekeeper. Mrs. Danvers makes a point of observing that one cannot see the sea from the east wing and that the narrator's room was formerly used as a guest bedroom. The narrator learns that Mrs. Danvers was Rebecca's personal maid and senses that Mrs. Danvers is resentful of her.

Analysis

When the newlyweds arrive at Manderley, the theme of Evil is developed. The rhododendrons are "slaughterous red, luscious and fantastic," a description that simultaneously suggests violence, blood, and sensuality. The "wall of color" creates a sinister atmosphere, and the "blood-red" suggests murder. The long and winding path to Manderley is a drive that twists and turns "as a serpent," an allusion to the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The descriptions of Mrs. Danvers hint at her evil nature: her eyes have no light; her "prominent cheek bones and great, hollow eyes gave her a skull's face, parchment white, set on a skeleton's frame."

The narrator's feelings of inadequacy relate to the theme of Identity, particularly an identity based on a sense of class. Entering the grand estate, the narrator wishes she were part of a lower-class couple who stacks their own wood and makes their own meals because she does not know how to run a large household. She feels out of place in her clothes. When she is with Maxim alone, she feels more comfortable, but even then she is "Mrs. de Winter" rather than her own person with her own name. By comparing herself to Rebecca, she emphasizes her own inadequacy. As she and Maxim sit by the fire, she imagines how Rebecca occupied the same seat. "Unconsciously," she notes, "I shivered, as though someone had opened the door behind me."

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