Rebecca

Quotes and Analysis

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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

The narrator, p. 1

This quotation is the opening sentence of Rebecca has become one of its most often-quoted lines. It immediately establishes significant questions about the plot of the novel. What is the nature of this mysterious Manderley, and more, importantly, what happened to it that makes the narrator dream about it repeatedly? The starkness of the sentence suggests a certain nostalgia, almost as if the narrator would return to Manderley if she could but is prevented by some larger force. The novel then becomes an explanation of this one mystery; every event that unfolds contributes to the loss of Manderley and the narrator's preoccupation with it in her dreams.

I can't forget what it has done to you. I was looking at you, thinking of nothing else all through lunch. It's gone forever, that funny, young, lost look that I loved. It won't come back again. I killed that too, when I told you about Rebecca. It's gone, in twenty-four hours. You are so much older...

Maxim, p. 299

This quotation is spoken by Maxim after he has revealed the truth about Rebecca's death to the narrator. Although the revelation about Rebecca allows the narrator to overcome her insecurities and achieve equal footing with Maxim, it also means the loss of her innocence. In Monte Carlo, Maxim was entranced by the narrator's innocence and purity specifically because it was so different from Rebecca's crass immodesty and sexual familiarity. Now, because of his actions, he has destroyed the narrator's most precious quality, and he has no one to blame but himself.

Why don't you go? We none of us want you. He doesn't want you, he never did. He can't forget her. He wants to be alone in the house again, with her. It's you that ought to be lying there in the church crypt, not her. It's you who ought to be dead, not Mrs. de Winter.

Mrs. Danvers, p. 246

Mrs. Danvers says this excerpt during a confrontation with the narrator after the costume ball. For the first time in the novel, all of the narrator's fears about Rebecca and Maxim are articulated aloud. Mrs. Danvers manipulates the narrator's insecurities and preoccupation with Rebecca to persuade her that Maxim is still in love with his first wife and the narrator has no place at Manderley. In fact, Mrs. Danvers' manipulation works so well that the narrator seems close to killing herself before the trance is broken by the ship's rockets.

The letter R was the last to go, it twisted in the flame, it curled outwards for a moment, becoming larger than ever. Then it crumpled too; the flame destroyed it. It was not ashes even, it was feathery dust...I went and washed my hands in the basin. I felt better, much better. I had a clean, new feeling...

The narrator, p. 57

The quotation occurs after the narrator has cut out the page of poetry containing Rebecca's inscription and set it alight. This image of the letter R turning to dust foreshadows the end of the novel when Manderley burns down. Although the narrator cuts out the inscription page from the book and then rips it up, she still feels Rebecca's presence; the only thing that gives her a sense of peace is setting the page on fire. In the same way, the narrator and Maxim are unable to remove Rebecca's presence from their lives at Manderley. The only way to truly destroy her and move forward from the past is the cathartic fire that burns down the estate.

Her shadow between us all the time. Her damned shadow keeping us from one another. How could I hold you like this, my darling, my little love, with the fear always in my heart that this would happen? I remembered her eyes as she looked at me before she died. I remembered that slow treacherous smile. She knew this would happen even then. She knew she would win in the end.

Maxim, p. 265

This quotation is spoken by Maxim after he has told the narrator the truth about Rebecca's death. It is suddenly clear the extent to which Maxim has been tortured with guilt over murdering Rebecca. The narrator had incorrectly assumed that Maxim's anguish was due to the loss of his wife, but Maxim is actually tormented by the realization that Rebecca has manipulated him into killing her. Although Maxim has strived to move on from the past -- even marrying that he loves -- he has concluded that Rebecca will never let him escape. She will achieve a final victory her body is discovered and Maxim is sent to prison as a murderer.

If I had a child, Max, neither you, nor anyone in the world, would ever prove that it was not yours. It would grow up here in Manderley, bearing your name. There would be nothing you could do...It would give you the biggest thrill of your life, wouldn't it, Max, to watch my son grow bigger day by day, and to know that when you died, all this would be his?

Rebecca, p. 279

This quotation is spoken by Rebecca in a flashback that Maxim describes to the narrator. This is the first time that the reader gets a sense of Rebecca as a character rather than just a memory. It also demonstrates Rebecca's skill at manipulating Maxim. Aware of her failing health, Rebecca took advantage of Maxim's emotional attachment to Manderley in order to goad him into shooting her (and thus dying on her own terms). Even Maxim was unable to recognize her manipulation and became overcome by the thought of one of Rebecca's bastard children inheriting the estate that he loves so much.

I'm a bachelor, I don't know much about women, I lead a quiet sort of life down here at Manderley as you know, but I should say that kindliness, and sincerity, and if I may say so -- modesty -- are worth far more to a man, to a husband, than all the wit and beauty in the world.

Frank Crawley, p. 132

This quotation is spoken by Frank Crawley during a conversation with the narrator. Whether out of embarrassment or a sense of loyalty to Maxim, Frank remains largely close-lipped about Rebecca to the narrator, leading her to conclude that he was just as much in love with her as everyone else. In this instance, Frank attempts to tell the narrator that she is superior to Rebecca, but, unaware of Rebecca's evil nature, the narrator is unable to grasp the full meaning of his words. She assumes that Frank is simply being kind to her, a conclusion that seems to be supported by Frank's later acknowledgement of Rebecca's great beauty.

Tall and dark she was. She gave you the feeling of a snake. I seen her here with me own eyes. By night she'd come.

Ben, p. 154

The quotation is spoken by Ben during the narrator's second conversation with him on the beach next to the cottage. Significantly, Ben is the only character who acknowledges Rebecca's evil nature from the very beginning. While the other minor characters in the novel emphasize Rebecca's beauty and sophistication, Ben ominously describes a tall, snake-like woman who only appears at night. Despite his mental retardation (or perhaps, because of it), Ben is able to see the true Rebecca, a version of the character that the narrator doesn't know existed until Maxim confesses the truth about her death. He becomes Du Maurier's version of the Fool of literary tradition, a character who speaks the truth in nonsense.

Tact never was my strong point, as Maxim will tell you. And, as I told you before, you're not a bit what I expected...You see, you are so very different from Rebecca.

Beatrice, p. 105

This quotation is spoken by Beatrice at the end of her first visit with the narrator. This is the first time in the novel that the narrator feels directly compared to Rebecca; although Mrs. Van Hopper had mentioned Maxim's first wife in conversation, the narrator didn't feel a true connection. Later on, it is revealed that Beatrice did not even like Rebecca, but, at this point, the narrator assumes that Beatrice is subtly voicing her preference for Maxim's glamorous first wife. In actuality, Beatrice is expressing her confusion that Maxim would choose such a young, quiet girl to replace Rebecca, a fact that demonstrates the extent to which Rebecca and Maxim fooled the public into thinking they had a happy marriage.

Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor here, I fancy I hear her just behind me. That quick, light footstep. I could not mistake it anywhere...It's almost as though I catch the sound of her dress sweeping the stairs as she comes down to dinner. Do you think she can see us, talking to one another now? Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?

Mrs. Danvers, p. 172

This quotation is spoken by Mrs. Danvers during one of her first confrontations with the narrator. "Rebecca" is not a traditional ghost story: Rebecca does not roam the halls of Manderley in spirit form. Instead, she haunts Manderley in the memories of those that live there. Mrs. Danvers maintains all of Rebecca's traditions, even down to the use of the house telephone for approving menus; all of the furnishings were chosen specifically by Rebecca; even Rebecca's room is kept exactly as it was on the night that she died. Although the narrator never knew Rebecca, she is still tormented by her presence: everything in the house has a touch of Rebecca, and there is no room for anyone else.