Literature Study GuidesRebeccaChapters 5 6 Summary

Rebecca | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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Rebecca | Chapters 5-6 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5

As Chapter 5 opens, the narrator reflects on falling in love with Maxim and on the nature of first love from her present vantage point. She concludes that being young and in love is fraught with difficulties and overreactions. She then flashes back to the time that she and Maxim spent driving around Monte Carlo and falling in love. She says to Maxim, "If only there could be an invention ... that bottled up a memory, like scent." At this, Maxim gently makes fun of her youth, and the narrator, already plagued by feelings of inadequacy, declares, "I wish I was a woman of about thirty-six dressed in black satin with a string of pearls."

The narrator's feelings of insecurity lead her to question Maxim's motives, and she accuses him of associating with her only out of charity. He becomes angry and tells her that she is the only reason that he has remained in Monte Carlo. He says that he enjoys her company and that she helps him forget the past. He asks her to call him "Maxim," rather than "Mr. de Winter."

The chapter closes with the narrator imagining that she is Rebecca. "I was not there at all," she thinks. "I was following a phantom in my mind, whose shadowy form had taken shape at last." The narrator conjures up places Rebecca visited and clothes she wore. She imagines calling Maxim "Max" and thinks that only inferior people like her grandmothers and "people like myself, quiet and dull and youthful" would call him "Maxim."

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 begins by flashing forward again to the narrator's present-day nomadic life. She is once again moving from one hotel to another. She remembers seeing something in the newspaper about the hotel Cote d'Azur, where she stayed with Mrs. Van Hopper years ago, and the memory leads to another flashback.

Mrs. Van Hopper abruptly announces her intention to leave Monte Carlo and travel to New York. The narrator is miserable, thinking she will never see Maxim again. She imagines their parting and her own awkwardness in saying good-bye.

However, on the morning of their planned departure, she goes to Maxim's room to say good-bye and instead is presented with a choice: New York or Manderley? "Which would you prefer?" asks Maxim. When the narrator assumes he is asking her to be his secretary, he replies, "No, I'm asking you to marry me, you little fool." When she remains confused, he insults her by comparing her ignorance to Mrs. Van Hopper's. However, despite the less-than-romantic proposal, she accepts, and he volunteers to tell Mrs. Van Hopper.

Predictably, Mrs. Van Hopper is not happy for her young employee and tells the narrator that the only reason Maxim has proposed is because he doesn't want to live alone any longer.

Analysis

In these chapters the narrator flashes forward and backward in time, struggling to keep memories of the past from upsetting her life in the present. Her memories of the early days with Maxim recall her youth and naiveté and her introduction to the mysterious and powerful Rebecca, a woman who dominates many of the narrator's thoughts and desires. "This is the present," the narrator asserts. "There is no past and no future." Nonetheless, she is unable to keep her mind from straying back to her early days with Maxim. The past still has a strong hold on her.

Simultaneously, du Maurier explores the intertwined themes of Jealousy and Identity as the narrator begins to compare her younger self to the older, more powerful and sophisticated Rebecca, whom she sees as still holding Maxim's attention.

The themes of Jealousy and Identity are also poignantly expressed in the narrator's declaration, "I wish I were a woman of about thirty-six dressed in black satin with a string of pearls." However, she is not that woman. She cannot pinpoint who she is; she desires to be someone else—Rebecca.

Looking at the novel in terms of the theories of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, readers must consider that as an orphan, the narrator may be searching for a father. Thus, she agrees to marry an older man, a common arrangement in marriages of the early twentieth century. His nickname, Maxim, is a word meaning "rule of conduct." She looks to him for guidance and—again—identity.

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