Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier Read-a-Long--Party Time

The read-a-long for DuMaurier's Rebecca is having it's party/discussion at Sheila's Bookjourney today and tomorrow.

This was a re-read for me but the last time I read it was in my late teens over 30 years ago.  I was just a year or two younger than the heroine then and intensely identified with her.  Not just because of age but also station in life and personality/character.  I too was extremely shy, unable to imagine giving orders to my elders or asserting myself to anyone not a peer, and uber naive and innocent of the 'ways of the world'.

Because of the fundamentalist sect strictures of my childhood I could at that time still count the number of big screen movies I'd seen on one hand and only one of those had been rated R and that for violence not sex.  That probably explains why much of the promiscuous behavior of Rebecca that DuMaurier imparts via much innuendo went over my head back than and thus held much of its shock value intact for me this time.

I had remembered that Rebecca was a 'mean girl' a bully, a liar, manipulative, which of course made it impossible for me to identify with the heroine's assumptions that Rebecca was deservedly beloved and worthy of immulation.  So this time I was a bit irritated with her for not picking up on the many clues that she needn't be intimidated by nor try to live up to her predecessor's role in Maxim's nor the household's nor the community's memory.  Nor need she have felt less than in Maxim's eyes, constantly worried that he compared her unfavorably and possibly still loved love Rebecca.

But for that last I blame Maxim the most.  How is that he did not wish to protect the very naivete and innocence that drew him to his new wife by smoothing the way for her at Manderly?  He should have gone further than just refurbishing a new wing of the mansion for her, he should have had Rebecca erased from it--all of her clothing, belongings packed away or sold.  Including Mrs Danvers the housekeeper who had been in service to Rebecca from way before her marriage to Maxim.

But then there wouldn't have been a story.

I wish I'd have realized that DuMaurier had neglected intentionally to give her heroine her own given name.  She was the first person narrator and it is often easy to loose track of their names as the author can go for dozens of pages without having occasion to use it.  I wasted a lot of time racking my memory and trying to scan back over ebook pages looking for it.

So Rebecca's successor had only the name Mrs de Winter, one of the many hand-me-down things she shared with Rebecca.  Like the raincoat and the hanky in its pocket, the dogs, the writing desk, Mrs. Danvers and of course Maxim himself.  Having no name emphasized her struggle for identity as she is catapulted from one social milieu into another in which she has no clue how to be.

And Manderly, the estate itself, was also a hand-me-down with Rebecca's things and influences everywhere from the daily menus, time and ways for serving meals even to the choice of flowers to be displayed in each room and which table they set upon.  But the hand-me-downness of Manderly went beyond Rebecca to the many previous generations.  Du Maurier spent a lot of words emphasizing the routines--of the days, weeks and seasons--that perpetuate like the ticking of a clock at Manderlay.  Yet another layer of 'not me' for the heroine to be wrapped in that must be peeled off before she can be defined to herself and others as her own person.

How that develops I must not elaborate on here unless I were to put up a bg spoiler alert..

1 tell me a story:

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