It’s the end of Rebecca week 1! We have been so thrilled to see all of the comments and Instagram posts throughout the week.
If you haven’t started reading Rebecca, you still have plenty of time. You can view our entire readalong schedule here. Please be aware this post will contain spoilers for the first 8 chapters of Rebecca.
The LOHF team has come up with some discussion questions, and we’d love to hear your thoughts as well!
1. The first 5 chapters are not what one might think of as “horror”, but how is Du Maurier setting the stage for possible gothic horror elements in the coming chapters? Is it the language? The characters? Or something else?
Emily: I link gothic horror to crumbling wealth – in particular, a beautiful home gone to ruin. This is exactly what du Maurier describes in the beginning section. Something terrible has happened (I assume), and the narrator is left haunted by the home she once had.
Cat: I think it’s a careful blend of everything, but in particular, the very first chapter that details Manderley’s fate made quite a dark impression; certain, distinct words are used to describe the effects of nature – choked, malevolent, uncontrolled – on what was once considered the protagonist’s epitome of perfection. Perhaps that’s akin to the chaos that will inevitably overtake her life.
Alex: Manderley’s fate and deterioration helps us establish a sense of dark and drab times or even potential foreshadowing. The house as a symbol of life and a status symbol has fallen and so might the status and life of the narrator.
2. How do you feel about the narrator remaining nameless until she becomes (the second) Mrs. de Winters?
Tracy: I think by having the narrator remain nameless until marriage, Du Maurier accomplishes several things. A – it reflects the narrators low sense of self worth and B – adds to the sense that she is “no one” until she’s associated, by marriage, with a man. Possible reflection of the time period as well.
Emily: I think the fact that the narrator remains nameless until attached to someone else says a lot about how she sees herself. Her life is dependent on someone else – she doesn’t view herself as an individual, and finds her identity in other people. The lack of solid identity for other women is present as well – Rebecca receives name recognition, but many of the other women are only known by their husband’s last names. Even the female dog doesn’t have a name; she’s just Jasper’s mother.
*Alex: I am not a fan of the narrator remaining nameless, but I do think it adds to the story and maybe one of the points that the author is trying to portray. It seems to me that this woman is a nobody (maybe due to her own sense of self-worth and dependency issues or maybe just due to the time period). She is first of all introduced as a companion, still nameless. And secondly she is Mrs. Maxim de Winter. She finally has a name but it is still not even her own name as it belongs to her husband. And she now belongs to her husband.
3. Does the narrator’s passiveness make it hard to relate to her or find her empathetic?
Emily: I have mixed feelings on the narrator’s passiveness. It’s clear that she has yet to find her own identity, and I think she will let people continue walking all over her until that happens…UNLESS there’s a more sinister game at play & it’s intentional (I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know). I feel sorry for her right now.
Alex: Her passiveness is irritating me. I want her to stand up for herself and make some decisions. It seems that she is so worried about doing anything original or making her own mind with the risk of upsetting someone or causing someone to be mad or inconvenienced.
Cat: Yes and no. I think, for a book such as this, published in 1938, there’s a significant difference in almost everything if compared to modern times. At twenty-one, the protagonist is very much a child; she’s void of the experience, independency and knowledge that’s available and at our very fingertips today. There’s also the matter of social status and how she’s treated by others – if I were to be ignored or otherwise considered inferior every day of my life, my personality would no doubt be molded by it. I try to put myself in that mindset, despite how frustrating it can be at times.
4. What do you think the narrator’s attraction is to Maxim? She compares him several times to a crush on an upper classman, brother, friend, etc. but never once says lover.
Tracy: This attraction might be a couple things. He seems to be the first person that treats her as an individual (even though he hulks out frequently) so she’s flattered by that – he’s so much older and seemingly refined compared to little old her.
Emily: Right now, I assume that the narrator’s attraction to Maxim is wrapped up in societal expectations and longing for a better life. I am uncertain about if the attraction is to him, or just what he can offer. I also think that she probably feels alone, and this is a way to avoid being alone.
Alex: I think the narrator’s not really in love with Maxim. I think she has these dreams of escaping the life she is in, but she does not know what she wants to escape to as she does not really seem like she has much focused ambition. It comes across that the narrator just assumes this is her place in life. She is to promote to wife from companion and so on and so on.
5. How do you feel about Daphne du Maurier’s writing?
Emily: The writing is beautiful – it’s a slow burn, but it’s descriptive and intriguing. It’s a bit haunting – I have thought about this book when I’m not reading it. I feel like I need to be dressed like Blair Waldorf and drinking in my non-existent parlour to fully appreciate this book.
Alex: The writing in this book is purposeful and whimsically haunting. The descriptions are so enticing that, while having a somewhat slower plot, the reader can’t help but to keep reading and keep turning those pages to experience more of the style. I also find myself wanting to talk to my husband and say things like “pish posh!” and “what does thou want for dinner?” after I finish reading.
Lilyn: I am not a fan. Frankly I would rather be reading an automotive manual. It might be boring as hell too, but at least I might gain some knowledge from it. Du Maurier’s style of writing doesn’t even come close to what I enjoy, and when that is coupled with a positively spineless character, well… Yeah. Beer good, book bad, Lilyn bored.
Here are some of our favorite quotes from the first 8 chapters of Rebecca:
There was nothing for it but to sit in my usual place beside Mrs. Van Hopper while she, like a large, complacent spider, spun her wide net of tedium about the stranger’s person.
His premonition of disaster was correct from the beginning; and like a ranting actress in an indifferent play, I might say that we have paid for freedom.
Nature had come into her own again and, little by little, in her stealthy,insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long, tenacious fingers.
The house was a sepulchre, our fear and suffering lay buried in the ruins. There would be no resurrection.
That corner in the drive, too, where the trees encroach upon. . . the gravel, is not a place in which to pause, not after the sun has set. When the leaves rustle, they sound very much like the stealthy movement of a woman in evening dress, and when they shiver suddenly, and fall, and scatter away along the ground, they might be the patter, patter, of a woman’s hurrying footstep, and the mark in the gravel the imprint of a high-heeled satin shoe.
Do you have any favorite quotes from this section? We would love for you to share them!
We are so excited to have you guys reading Rebecca along with us. We would like to host a giveaway as a thank you for joining in.
Prize: We will be giving away one copy of our next readalong selection (to be announced at the end of the Rebecca readalong!) to one randomly selected participant.
How to enter: Comment on our discussion posts throughout the Rebecca readalong to be entered into the giveaway. You will receive one entry each week you join in. In your comment, share your thoughts on the current week’s section of Rebecca, share your favorite quotes, or post a link where we can find your thoughts on the current week’s section.