Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again…
If there was a book to be written by R. L Stine in his famous Goosebumps series, it should include Mrs Danvers as one of its key characters. Heck, maybe she should be the key character and main ghost host in the story. Because she was, sure as hell to me, one lean, mean creepy machine in Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca.
We come to learn of Mrs Danvers as the head of housekeeping for Manderley, the Cornish overbearing mansion owned by Maximilian de Winter. A dastardly and deceitful woman who is unable to leave the past and move on. Fondly known as Max by all his staff, he befriends a young girl in her twenties while vacationing in Monte Carlo. A whirlwind romance later, they got married (his proposal is really odd, “I’m asking you to marry me, you silly fool!”) and he takes her back to Manderley after their honeymoon in Italy.
The idea of marrying a rich man is pure gold. Even better if the rich man is much older than you are as it means that you’ll be well looked after. But marital bliss is too far out of our narrator’s reach. Her arrival at Manderley was not given a warm welcome, although most of the staff hardly say much except to accept her presence and her status as Max’s wife. Mrs Danvers, however, was none too pleased about it. That’s because she was still hung up over the sudden passing of the previous mistress, the former wife of Max de Winter, the first real Mrs de Winter.
Rebecca is, without a doubt, a gripping and powerful novel that anyone can relate to the themes of identity crisis, jealousy and envy with another woman. In this case, the other woman is dead, having drowned in a supposed boating accident. Her presence remains, still, even from beyond the grave, in the form of a memory that Mrs Danvers, the head housekeeper, would never allow to fade. The narrator, whom we never discover her name from the first page until the very end, faces a painful struggle against this “other woman” and her life at Manderley is constantly compared to Rebecca. Despite being known as Mrs de Winter and the new lady of the house, the narrator toils and attempts to adjust to her new way of life and to her husband Max. She is under the belief that Rebecca had been the better Mrs de Winter and a more engaging person. Yet, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Rebecca was not as angelic and perfect as people believed her to be. Her death is also not as tragically accidental as it would seem to be.
Manderley is accurately depicted as the hellish Gothic mansion where the narrator finds difficult to adjust. The mansion is nearly a character in itself anyway. It seems to breathe and tremble with Rebecca’s haunting and chilling presence. But really, let’s not forget the most formidable character of them all. Because she is the perfect villain. She does so well as a menacing individual with an abnormal obsession with Rebecca that intensifies the dark and gloomy atmosphere, and whose devilish antics drive the narrator up the wall.
Despite the relatively dark elements, Rebecca has a little something for everyone. A dab of romance for the soft-hearted. A dash of horror for the scream queens. And a healthy serving of crime and mystery for the couch potato crime detectives with a delicious turn of events that will leave the readers’ eyes as wide as saucers.
But it did strike me that the narrator’s name was never mentioned. Not the first name, not the last name. We only know her as Mrs de Winter. It’s strange how the story tells the predicament of the second Mrs de Winter but we constantly come across the name of the first Mrs de Winter. Mrs Danvers never wanted anything to do with the second Mrs de Winter. The other thing is the ending. It’s been thrown wide open to interpretation but here’s a tip for you: