Stylistic analysis of the part of the novel "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier (43001)

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Daphne Du Maurier (13 May 1907–19 April 1989) was born in London. She came from an artistic family. Her father was the actor-manager Sir Gerald Du Maurier and she was the granddaughter of caricaturist George Du Maurier. One of her ancestors was Mary Anne Clarke, the mistress of the duke of York, second son of King George III. She later became the heroine of Du Maurier's novel MARY ANNE (1954). In 1831 Mary Anne Clarke's daughter married Louis-Mathurin Busson Du Maurier. THE GLASS-BLOWERS (1963) was a novel about the Busson family. Her own father she portrayed in GERALD (1934).

Du Maurier grew up in a lively London household where friends like J.M. Barrie and Edgar Wallace visited frequently. Her uncle, a magazine editor, published one of her stories when she was a teenager and got her a literary agent. Du Maurier attended schools in London, Meudon, France, and Paris. In her childhood she was a voracious reader, she was fascinated by imaginary worlds and developed a male alter ego for herself. Du Maurier also had a male narrator in several novels. She wrote the first story ‘The thirstys’ when she was just 13 years old. Her first book, THE LOVING SPIRIT, appeared in 1931. This novel played a main role in her life. One man was so impressed with this novel that he decided to go to Cornwall in order to meet an author personally – that man was Daphne’s future husband.

It was followed by JAMAICA INN (1936), a historical tale of smugglers, which was bought for the movies, and directed by Alfred Hitchcock - later Hitchcock also used her short story 'The Birds', a tense tale of nature turning on humanity. FRENCHMAN'S CREEK, a pirate romance, was filmed in 1944. MY COUSIN RACHEL (1951) was made into film in 1952. The story examined how a man may be manipulated by a woman, who perhaps has murdered her husband.

Besides popular novels Du Maurier published short stories, plays and biographies, among others Branwell Brontë's, the brother of sisters Anne, Charlotte, and Emily. Her biography of Francis Bacon, an English statesman in the 1500s and 1600s, appeared in 1976. Du Maurier's autobiography, GROWING PAINS, was published when she was 70. In the late 1950s, Du Maurier began to take interest in the supernatural. During this period she wrote several stories, which explored fears and paranoid fantasies, among them 'The Pool', in which a young girl glimpses a magical world in the woods, but is later barred from it, and 'The Blue Lenses', in which a woman sees everyone around her having the head of an animal. In 1970 appeared her second collection of short stories, NOT AFTER MIDNIGHT, which included 'Don't Look Now', a tale set in Venice, involving a psychic old lady, a man with the sixth sense, and a murderous dwarf.

It is difficult to define to which literary current the creativity of Du Maurier can be concerned. Despite - or perhaps due to - her immense popularity, Du Maurier was long regarded as a resolutely middlebrow author. However, recent criticism focusing on the Freudian and Jungian subtexts of her books has forced a reappraisal of her canon. Although many of her novels rely on the trappings of the romance, a lot of her best works transcend the genre to achieve a powerful psychological realism, the others can have the features of fantasy, thriller, history novel and the novel of suspense, mysticism, psychological or social drama. So her works consist of the synthesis of different genres and the element almost of every literary current. In my personal opinion the Daphne’s creativity can be related to new-romanticism.

In 1932 Du Maurier married to Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Arthur Montague Browning II, who was knighted for his distinguished service during World War II. They were happily married for thirty-three years and had three children; Browning died in 1965. Du Maurier was made dame in 1969 for her literary distinction. She died on April 19, 1989.

The novel REBECCA is among the most memorable in twentieth-century literature. The story centers on a young and timid heroine. Her life is made unstable by her strangely behaving husband, Maxim de Winter, whom she just have married. Maxim is a wealthy widower. His wife Rebecca has died in mysterious circumstances. His house is ruled by Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper. She has made Rebecca's room a shrine. Du Maurier focuses on the fears and fantasies of the new wife, who eventually learns, that her husband did not love his former wife, a cruel, egoistical woman.

One of the main images of the novel a manor Manderley.


When Daphne Du Maurier was a child she went to stay at a house called Milton. It was a huge house and very grand with a vast entrance hall, many rooms and a commanding housekeeper. Daphne liked the house, feeling at home there and held it in her memory.

As a young adult Daphne discovered Menabilly, the home of the Rashleigh family, situated just outside Fowey in Cornwall. It was a large house hidden away down a long driveway with vast grounds surrounded by woodland and a pathway leading down to a cottage nestled beside the sea. Daphne would visit the house often, trespassing in the grounds. The house was empty and neglected but she loved it. Much later Daphne was to live at Menabilly and do much of her writing there and her love for Menabilly was to last her a lifetime.

It was a combination of these two houses that became Manderley, the house at the centre of Daphne Du Mauriers novel Rebecca, which opens with the famous lines: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

Daphne started to write REBECCA in the late summer of 1937. Her husband had been posted to Egypt as commanding officer of the 2nd battalion of the Grenadier Guards and she had left her two little girls Tessa and Flavia in England with their nanny while she accompanied him. This enforced separation from her beloved Cornwall must have caused Daphne to turn her thoughts to writing a novel set in that area and although she could not know it at the time, she was writing the book that was to become her most famous work. The book was completed when her husband was posted back to Aldershot and the family were reunited in a house called Greyfriars near Fleet in Hampshire. REBECCA was published in April 1938.

The central character is the second wife of Maxim de Winter. The novel begins with her reflecting on a dream she has had about Manderley and as she remembers her dream the story unfolds. The character is never named but she tells the story in the first person and is traditionally referred to as the narrator.

The story begins in Monte Carlo where a rich American woman called Mrs Van Hopper is staying with her paid companion, the young and inexperienced narrator. Mrs Van Hopper discovers that Maxim de Winter is staying at the same hotel and is eager to meet him, as an air of mystery and sadness is said to surround him since the recent death of his wife Rebecca.

Maxim and the narrator get to know one another. The narrator thinks Maxim is wonderful but his is twice her age and much more experienced in life than her and despite the fact that they go out together every day and spend a lot of time together she thinks Maxim is just being kind to her. When Mrs Van Hopper suddenly decides to leave Monte Carlo, Maxim asks the narrator to marry him and she accepts. Then Maxim takes the narrator home to Manderley his country estate in Cornwall…

So this mysterious life story of new Mrs de Winter began.

In the Christian Science Monitor, September 14th 1938 page 12, V S Pritchett reviewed REBECCA for the American public. He said that it had received fabulous reviews in England, reading almost like advertising copy. He then went on to say that it would be absurd to make a fuss about REBECCA, which would be here today and gone tomorrow like the rest of publicity’s masterpieces. How wrong he was, REBECCA became the most famous of all Daphne Du Maurier’s novels and is still the one that she is best remembered for. Daphne could never understand its popularity saying that it was simply a study in jealousy.

Two years later, it was made into a fabulous four-star movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock (his first American film) staring Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, George Sanders and Judith Anderson. It won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Cinematography.

REBECCA has been variously described, firstly as an example of the Cinderella story but with the central character being helped from rags to riches by the older man who marries her rather than the more traditional help of a fairy godmother. REBECCA has also been described as the first major gothic romance in the 20th century. It certainly contains all the elements of the great gothic novel and had often been compared to ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte, with the house so strongly influenced by the previous occupant, the brooding hero in the shape of Maxim, the mad woman in the shape of Mrs Danvers, the growing tension, and finally the house destroyed by fire.

There is another school of thought that believes the Rebecca, Maxim, narrator triangle is a reproduction of the relationship between Daphne Du Maurier and her father and mother or perhaps Daphne, her husband and his previous fiancée. The love that Daphne and her father Gerald had for one another is well documented, as is the less comfortable relationship that Daphne had with her mother. It has been suggested that the younger woman’s struggle to feel secure in the older mans love because of the influence of the more sophisticated and successful REBECCA comes from the relationship Daphne had with her parents. Another similar suggestion comes from the fact that her husband had been engaged to a very beautiful and self-assured woman before he knew Daphne and although this relationship was called off, Daphne was consumed with jealousy and doubted that he could love her as much as he had loved the other woman. It seems likely that this woman may well have been developed to create the character of Rebecca. Either way there can be little doubt that the nameless second Mrs de Winter is none other than Daphne Du Maurier herself.


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