Rebecca (novel)

Rebecca (novel)

infobox Book |
name = Rebecca
orig title =
translator =

image_caption = First edition cover
author = Daphne du Maurier
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Crime, Gothic, Mystery
publisher = Victor Gollancz
release_date = 1938
media_type = Print (Hardback and Paperback)
pages =
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Rebecca" is a novel by British author Daphne du Maurier. When "Rebecca" was first published in 1938, du Maurier became - to her great surprise - one of the most popular authors of the day. "Rebecca" is considered to be one of her best works. Some observers have noted parallels with "Jane Eyre". [cite web | title=Du Maurier's 'Rebecca,' A Worthy 'Eyre' Apparent | work=Washington Post | url= | accessdate=2006-12-12] [cite web | title=Presence of Orson Welles in Robert Stevenson's Jane Eyre (1944) | work=Literature Film Quarterly | url= | accessdate=2006-12-12] Much of the novel was written while she was staying in Alexandria, Egypt where her husband was posted at the time. [cite book | title=Afterword by Sally Beauman to "Rebecca" | last= | first= | authorlink= | publisher=Virago Press | location= | edition=2003 ed. | date=30 Jan 2003 | id=ISBN 1-84408-038-2 ]

Plot summary

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" is the book's opening line, and from here its unnamed narrator recollects her past, recalling the story of her transition into womanhood. While working as the companion to a rich American woman vacationing on the French Riviera, she becomes involved with a wealthy Englishman, Max (Maxim) de Winter. After a week of courtship, she agrees to marry him, and after the marriage, accompanies him to his mansion, the beautiful Cornish estate, Manderley.

Only upon their arrival at Manderley does the new bride realize how difficult it will be to lay to rest the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca. Rebecca drowned off the coast next to the mansion a year before, but her memory has a strong hold on the estate and all of its inhabitants and visitors, especially its domineering housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, one of literature's most infamous female villains.

Mrs. Danvers, who was profoundly devoted to Rebecca, tries to undermine the second Mrs. de Winter, suggesting to her that she will never attain the urbanity and charm that Rebecca possessed. Whenever Mrs. de Winter attempts changes at Manderley, Mrs. Danvers points out how Rebecca ran Manderley when she was alive. Each time Mrs. Danvers does this, she implies that the new Mrs. de Winter is lacking in experience and knowledge and understanding of the complexities of the management of such an important estate such as Manderley. The second Mrs. de Winter is cowed by Mrs. Danvers imposing manner and complies with the housekeeper's suggestions.

Lacking self-confidence and overwhelmed by her new life, the protagonist commits one faux pas after another, until she is convinced that Maxim regrets his impetuous decision to marry her and is still deeply in love with the seemingly perfect Rebecca. The climax occurs at Manderley's annual costume ball. Mrs. Danvers manipulates the protagonist into wearing a costume replica of one of the former inhabitants of the estate. The same costume worn by Rebecca to much acclaim, the previous year, shortly before her death. In the early morning hours after the ball, the storm that had been building over the estate leads to a shipwreck. The shifting waters uncover the remains of Rebecca's boat. It is just prior to this shipwreck that Mrs. Danvers reveals her contempt for and dislike of the second Mrs. de Winter. Taking the second Mrs. de Winter on a tour of Rebecca's bedroom, her wardrobe and luxurious possessions, which Mrs. Danvers has kept intact and a shrine to Rebecca, she encourages the second Mrs. De Winter to commit suicide by jumping out of an upstairs window.

The revealations from the shipwreck, leads Maxim to confess the truth to the second Mrs. de Winter about how the willful and adulterous Rebecca taunted him with a series of love affairs. She claimed to be pregnant by another man and threatened to burden Maxim with the responsibility of raising the child. Maxim, truly hating her, shot Rebecca. Maxim disposed of her body on her boat, which he sank at sea. The narrator is relieved to hear that Maxim did not love Rebecca.

Rebecca's boat is raised and it is discovered that holes had been deliberately drilled in the bottom which would have caused it to sink. There is an inquest and a verdict of suicide is brought. However Rebecca's first cousin (and also her lover) Jack appears on the scene claiming to have proof that Rebecca could not have intended suicide. Jack attempts to blackmail Maxim because he believes that Maxim killed Rebecca and then sank the boat.

Rebecca, it is revealed, had an appointment with a doctor shortly before her death, presumably to confirm her pregnancy. When the doctor is found he reveals instead that Rebecca had been suffering from cancer, and would have died within a few months. Moreover she could never have become pregnant. The implication is that, knowing she was going to die, Rebecca lied to Maxim that she had been impregnated by another man, because she wanted Maxim to kill her (thus her death could indeed be considered a form of suicide). Upon returning to Manderley after the truth was discovered, Maxim and his bride discover the house in flames. As Mrs. Danvers has disappeared, it is implied that she had set the fire, perhaps collaborating with Jack, who had threatened Maxim and his second wife and suggested that he could hurt them otherwise than by ensuring Maxim was tried for murder.

It is evident at the beginning of the novel that Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter now live in some foreign exile. The events recounted in the book are in essence a flashback of the narrator's life at Manderley.

The given name of the second Mrs. de Winter is not revealed in the novel. However, in chapter 3, after she receives a note from Maxim, she says how her name was 'spelt correctly, an unusual thing', which implies that her name is either strange or complex. Early in in the story, Mr. de Winter compliments her on her "strange and unusual name".

Related works

The novel has inspired three additional books approved by the du Maurier estate:

*"Mrs de Winter" (1993), by Susan Hill, is a sequel originally written in the 1980s. ISBN 0-09-928478-2
*"The Other Rebecca" (1996), by Maureen Freely, is a contemporary version. ISBN 0-89733-477-9
*"Rebecca's Tale" (2001), by Sally Beauman, ISBN 0-06-621108-5 is a narrative of four characters affected by Rebecca. It is often mistakenly referred to as a prequel.


The novel, and the character of Mrs. Danvers in particular, have entered many aspects of popular culture. One edition of the book was used by the Germans in World War II as a code source. Sentences would be made using single words in the book, referred to by page number, line and position in the line. One copy was kept at Rommel's headquarters, and the other was carried by German Abwehr agents infiltrated in Cairo after crossing Egypt by car, guided by Count László Almásy.

This code was never used, however, because the radio section of the HQ was captured in a skirmish and the Germans thought the security was compromised. This is referred to in Ken Follett's novel "The Key to Rebecca" - where a (fictional) spy does use it to pass critical information to Rommel.

This use of the novel was also referenced in Michael Ondaatje's novel "The English Patient". Fact|date=May 2007

The character of Mrs Danvers is alluded to numerous times throughout Stephen King's "Bag of Bones". In the book, Mrs. Danvers serves as something of a bogeyman for the main character Mike Noonan. King also uses the character name for the chilly, obedient servant in "Father's Day," a tale in his 1982 film Creepshow.

In Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, in the bookworld, they have accidentally made lots of Mrs. Danvers clones, which they use as troops against The Mispeling Vyrus, and other threats, including as an army.

Film, television and theatrical adaptations


"Rebecca" has been adapted several times. The most notable of these was the Academy Award winning 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film version "Rebecca", the first film Hitchcock made under his contract with David O. Selznick. The film, which starred Laurence Olivier as Max, Joan Fontaine as the Heroine, and Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers was based on the novel. However, the Hollywood Production Code required that if Max had murdered his wife, he would have to be punished for his crime. Therefore, the key turning point of the novel -- the revelation that Max, in fact, murdered Rebecca -- was altered so that it seemed Rebecca's death was accidental. At the end of the film version, Mrs Danvers perishes in the fire. The film quickly became a classic and, at the time, was a major technical achievement in film-making.

A new version with Ralph Fiennes as Maxim is currently in production. []

"Rebecca" has now made its foray into Bollywood (the Indian Film Industry) as "Anamika". 'Anamika' is the adaption of the classic novel.


"Rebecca" has been adapted for television by both BBC (the book cover pictured on this page shows Joanna David as Mrs de Winter) and Carlton Television. The latter version starred Emilia Fox (Joanna David's daughter) in the same role, and in the US, was broadcast by PBS as part of its "Masterpiece Theatre" series. The plots of certain Latin-American soap operas have also been inspired by this story, such as "Manuela" (Argentina), and "Infierno en el paraíso" (Mexico).


Meg & Dia's Meg Frampton penned a song entitled "Rebecca", inspired by the novel. []

Sondre Lerche's song, "She's fantastic", makes a reference to Rebecca. In it he says, "In that old movie 'bout Rebecca's spell I feel like Max never felt, minus the drama and the fraud..."

On Kansas alumnus Steve Walsh's solo recording "Glossolalia" a song entitled "Rebecca" appears, with lyrics seemingly composed from Maxim de Winter's point of view: "I suppose I was the lucky one, returning like a wayward son to Manderley, I'd never be the same..." [ [ "Glossolalia" at Magna Carta Records] ] [ [ Hitchcock films' music list] ]


Du Maurier herself adapted "Rebecca" as a [ stage play] in 1939; it had a successful London run in 1940 of over 350 performances. [ [] ] [ [ Du Maurier profile at Turner Classic Movies] ]

On September 28, 2006 a musical version of "Rebecca" premièred at the Raimund Theater in Vienna, Austria. The new musical is written by Michael Kunze (book and lyrics) and Sylvester Levay (music) and directed by the renowned American director Francesca Zambello. The cast includes Uwe Kröger as Max de Winter, Wietske van Tongeren as "Ich" ("I", the narrator) and Susan Rigvava-Dumas as Mrs Danvers. Before 2008 there was talk of moving the musical to the Broadway stage, but all plans have been cancelled due to the complexity of the sets, scenery, and special effects—including a grand staircase that twirls down into the stage and a finale in which the entire stage - including Mrs Danvers - is engulfed in flames. In September 2008 it was announced that the musical would be arriving on Broadway by 2010 with a pre-Broadway try-out in at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, MN (though there are some rumours of the try-out happening in Toronto, Canada).Fact|date=September 2008

Plagiarism allegations

Shortly after "Rebecca" was published in Brazil, critic Álvaro Lins pointed out many resemblances between Du Maurier's book and the work of Brazilian writer Carolina Nabuco. Nabuco's "A Sucessora" ("The Successor") has a main plot similar to "Rebecca", including a young woman marrying a widower and the strange presence of the first wife — plot features also shared with the far older "Jane Eyre". Nina Auerbach alleged, in her book "Daphne Du Maurier, Haunted Heiress", that Du Maurier read the Brazilian book when the first drafts were sent to be published in England and based her famous best-seller on it. According to Nabuco's autobiography, she refused to sign a contract brought to her by a United Artists' representative in which she agreed that the similarities between her book and the movie were mere coincidence. [cite web | title=Rebecca seria brasileira | work=Os Filmes | url= | accessdate=2007-10-26] Du Maurier denied copying Nabuco's book, as did her publisher, claiming that the plot used in "Rebecca" was quite common.

In 1944 in the US, Daphne du Maurier, her US publishers, Doubleday, and various parties connected with the 1940 film version of the novel, were sued by Edwina L. MacDonald for plaigarism. MacDonald alleged that du Maurier had copied her novel, "Blind Windows." Du Maurier successfully defended the allegations.

Du Maurier herself stated that the book was based on her memories of Menabilly and Cornwall, as well as the relationship she had with her father. [cite web | title=Bull's-Eye for Bovarys | work=TIME | url=,9171,849789-2,00.html | accessdate=2007-10-26]

External links

* [] Article about sexual ambiguity in 'Rebecca' by Cathy Pryor in the London Independent.
* [] Article about Good things in 'Rebecca' by Cathy Pryor in the London Independent.
* [ "Rebecca" Book Notes] at [ Literapedia]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rebecca (disambiguation) — Rebecca is a biblical matriarch from the Book of Genesis and a common first name. As a name it is often shortened to Becky or Becca; see Rebecca (given name) .Rebecca (and related names) may also refer to:PeopleGiven name* Becky (talento) (born… …   Wikipedia

  • Rebecca West — Portrait of Rebecca West by Madame Yevonde Born Cicely Isabel Fairfield 21 December 1892(1892 12 21) London, England (or county Kerry, Ireland?) …   Wikipedia

  • Rebecca (Film, 1940) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Rebecca. Rebecca Judith Ande …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Rebecca (Hitchcock) — Rebecca (film, 1940) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Rebecca. Rebecca Judith Ande …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Rebecca Rush — (January 1, 1779 1850) was a writer in the early United States. She published her only known book, Kelroy, in 1812 at the age of thirty three. Unfortunately, the book was not much noticed because it appeared on the eve of the War of 1812, which… …   Wikipedia

  • Rebecca Levene — is a British author and editor, best known for editing Virgin s New Adventures series of original fiction Doctor Who novels.BiographyLevene was educated at Clare College, Cambridge. After graduating, she worked for a Labour MP. Levene then… …   Wikipedia

  • Rebecca Moesta — Anderson, born November 17, 1956 in Heidelberg, West Germany, is the author of several science fiction books. Although born in Germany, Rebecca was born to American parents and raised in Pasadena, California, where she lived until her early… …   Wikipedia

  • Rebecca Gratz — (March 4, 1781 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania August 27, 1869 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was a preeminent Jewish American educator and philanthropist.Gratz was the seventh of twelve children born to Miriam Simon and Michael Gratz. Her mother was… …   Wikipedia

  • Rebecca Wells — (born 1952) is an American playwright and author. She is best known for her Ya Ya series of novels.Wells was born in Central Louisiana and grew up on a working plantation where her family has lived since 1795. In 1982, she went to Seattle,… …   Wikipedia

  • Rebecca Gilman — (b. 1964 in Trussville, Alabama) is an American playwright. She attended Middlebury College, graduated from Birmingham Southern College and earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop at the University of Iowa. She currently… …   Wikipedia

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.