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Rebecca: Chapter 11


 
Chapter 11
 
•        The narrator talks about the sea, living near the sea in a way that I very much identify with.  “It has a mournful harping note sometimes, and the very persistence of it, that eternal roll and thunder and hiss, plays a jagged tune upon the nerves.”  I once stayed in a hotel on Isla Mujeres in Mexico where our room had a balcony right on some rocks where the waves crashed.  It seemed very romantic at first, but we were trying to write there and so were in the room a lot.  After about a day, that sound, as she says the “eternal roll,” the unremitting crash of the waves drove me mad.
•        The narrator talks again in this chapter (and in every chapter) about her obsession with Rebecca.  “…at the back of my mind, there was a frightened furtive seed of curiosity that grew slowly and stealthily, for all my denial of it, and I knew all the doubt and the anxiety of the child who has been told, “these things are not discussed, they are forbidden.”
•        In every conversation with Maxim she “sat in a sweat” worrying about where the conversation would go and that it would touch on Rebecca.
•        When people came to visit she was always worried about someone saying something they should not.
•        Maxim put her in this position by not explaining what happened with Rebecca, or at least a convincing story of what happened.  She also put herself in the position by not asking.
•        She imagines everybody is saying: “She is so different from Rebecca.”  And, the difference I always to her disadvantage.
•        Du Maurier plays on the way people talk about the dead by having the neighbors lowering their voices as they say to the narrator as if they could be overheard: “She was so tremendously popular.”
•        The narrator is so intimidated by Rebecca that she cannot believe it when she finally says her name out loud.  And, after she dares to say the name, it is empowering.
•        The narrator describes being examined by the people who come to visit Manderley, or who she is forced to call on in the area.  She notes “that swift downward glance” to see if she was going to have a baby.  It reminded me of a friend who said that when she was pregnant, perfect strangers would feel that they had the right to come up and touch her belly.
•        The narrator wonders if Frank had been in love with Rebecca.
•        She notices every choice of word when people are talking about Rebecca or her.  She notices that Frank, rather than referring to Rebecca as Mrs. De Winter, or Rebecca, simply says “she.”
•        In desperation the narrator finally asks Frank the questions about Rebecca she should have been asking her husband.  Frank reassures her that he finds it “refreshing” that she married Maxim.  He assures her that “kindliness, and sincerity, and…modesty – are worth far more…than all the wit and beauty in the world.”
•        Frank tells her that she is good for Maxim because she is “fresh and young,” which leaves one wondering what Maxim is going to do when she is no longer fresh and young, and what he might do to keep her that way.
 
In the discussions included with the Netflix DVD of Rebecca is one between Molly Haskell (a film critic often on TCM) and another woman.  They talk about how Maxim’s diffident attitude toward the narrator, his kisses that are always more like a father or an older brother than a lover, his insistence that she never wear pearls and black satin, that she never grow up, and his later lament that telling her the truth about Rebecca has meant that she has grown up, are disturbing indications that perhaps Maxim’s unease with Rebecca was caused by more than her independent behavior.
 
They talk about how the novel and the movie set up as a menace the deep threat of adult female sexuality.  Maxim hates Rebecca for utilizing her sexuality independently, and kills her for challenging the patriarchy of inheritance and lineage.  He repeatedly tells the narrator he doesn’t want her to become anything other than a child. 

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