Rebecca Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5-6


Over the next few weeks, the narrator spends most of her free time with Maxim, either lunching with him in the dining room or driving with him around Monte Carlo. She realizes that she has fallen in love with him and wishes that there were a way to keep the memory of their time together fresh and new. When she tells Maxim about this desire, he laughs at her, and the narrator realizes how far apart they are in age and understanding. She is unable to imagine that he could ever have romantic feelings for her and feels very young and alone.

Feeling insecure and confused about his motives, the narrator asks Maxim why she is the object of his charity. In an instant, Maxim breaks out of his usual reserve and sternly tells her that she is the only reason that he has remained in Monte Carlo for so long; he enjoys her company, and she makes him forget events that he wants to forget. The narrator is overcome by Maxim’s outburst, and she begins to cry because she is even more convinced that he could never return her affection.

On the drive back to the hotel, he puts his arm around the narrator and admits that he does not know how to deal with her. He then asks her to call him “Maxim,” instead of Mr. de Winter, and the narrator is pleased by this advance in their relationship. When she returns to her room, she tells Mrs. Van Hopper that she has been taking tennis lessons. Somehow she knows that Mrs. Van Hopper will make her feel guilty for driving with Maxim so often, and she does not want to ruin the memory of her time with him. Coming across the book of poetry with its inscription, the narrator realizes that Rebecca called him “Max,” instead of “Maxim.” She assumes that “Maxim” is the name that he gives to dull and unimportant people.

The next day, Mrs. Van Hopper abruptly decides to cut short their stay in Monte Carlo and travel to New York immediately. The narrator is devastated by this news, realizing that she will never see Maxim again. She imagines an awkward goodbye and the occasional Christmas card, all evidence that their time together in Monte Carlo meant far more to the narrator than it did to Maxim. Mrs. Van Hopper drags her out of her reverie, and the narrator gets down to the business of packing.

The narrator tries to speak to Maxim that afternoon, but he leaves a message at the front desk that he will be in Cannes until midnight. Realizing that they will probably leave before she can talk to him, she spends the night crying into her pillow. The next morning, Mrs. Van Hopper sends her to the office to try to change their train reservation to an early time, but the narrator goes to Maxim’s room instead.

When she enters the room, Maxim is shaving in his pajamas, and the narrator suddenly feels foolish for coming to see him. After she tells him that she is leaving, Maxim promptly invites her to come to Manderley as his companion, or rather, as his wife. The narrator suspects that he is simply teasing her, but Maxim is finally able to convince her that his proposal is serious. She accepts and immediately imagines herself as the glamorous Mrs. De Winter, hostess of Manderley.

Maxim and the narrator go to Mrs. Van Hopper’s room, so that Maxim can explain the situation. The narrator remains in her room during the conversation, wondering what they are saying. She realizes that he has not said anything about being in love with her and wishes that the proposal had not been quite so quick. Noticing the book of poems on the bed next to her, the narrator impulsively cuts out the inscription page and tears it into several pieces. After she sets the fragments on fire and sees the strong “R” of “Rebecca” turning into ash, she feels a new optimism about her decision to marry Maxim.

Maxim enters the room to tell her about Mrs. Van Hopper’s reaction and then leaves. Alone with the narrator, Mrs. Van Hopper reveals her displeasure at the situation and accuses her of being deceitful about the time she spent with Maxim in Monte Carlo. Mrs. Van Hopper also warns the narrator that she is woefully ill equipped to be the hostess of Manderley and will regret marrying Maxim. The narrator is stung by her words but tries to brush them off, reminding herself that she is going to be Mrs. De Winter.


At this point in the novel, the narrator’s relationship with Maxim has progressed to the point that she is in love with him. In some ways, her affection for the older, more sophisticated Maxim can be seen as a reference to the Electra complex, the Freudian theory that states that young women have an unconscious desire to kill their mother and marry their father. Although the narrator provides the reader with little biographical information about her childhood, she does describe her deep love for her dead father. Maxim is the only other adult male with whom she has come in contact and clearly assumes the role of a surrogate father figure. With that in mind, Mrs. Van Hopper takes the position of the surrogate mother figure that the narrator must overcome to fulfill her relationship with Maxim.

These drives through Monte Carlo also establish a father-daughter relationship in the way that Maxim relates to the narrator. He speaks to her in a paternal and even patronizing way, commenting on her habit of biting her fingernails and admitting that he is old enough to be her father. This initial pattern foreshadows their relationship for the majority of the novel. Even after they are married, Maxim will continue to interact with the narrator in a paternal way and inadvertently convince her that he views her in an asexual way.

The almost incestuous overtones of Maxim’s relationship with the narrator can be identified as a reference to Du Maurier’s own relationship with her father. Du Maurier’s father, Gerald, was known to be inappropriately jealous and possessive of Du Maurier, especially when it came to her romantic relationships with other men. Allegedly, Gerald was so overwhelmed by the news of Du Maurier’s engagement to Browning that he burst into tears and declared, “It’s not fair!” It is unclear if Du Maurier’s relationship with her father was ever inappropriately consummated, but the topic of incest is continually highlighted in many of her books.

During these chapters, the reader also gets a sense of Maxim’s personality through his interactions with the narrator. As the narrator herself notices, Maxim seems to be tormented by something that happened in the past, but there is no clear sense of what that could be (except that it is somehow related to the death of his first wife). Despite being presented as a grieving widower, Maxim is still not presented in a very sympathetic way. His brusque proposal to the narrator, for example, demonstrates a certain arrogance and lack of consideration for the narrator’s feelings. He presents the marriage as a business transaction and, the narrator notices later on, does not even tell her that he loves him.

With that in mind, the reader cannot help but wonder if Mrs. Van Hopper’s cruel warning to the narrator might actually be valid. At this point in the novel, his treatment of the narrator has varied wildly, leaving no clear indication whether or not he is actually a benevolent character. In the end, the reader can only trust the narrator’s love-struck conviction that Maxim is worthy of her.