Rebecca Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-14


For the next week, the weather is cold and rainy, and the narrator cannot stop thinking about the deserted boathouse on the beach. Although Maxim had been acting normally, the narrator is terrified that any word from her might cause that tormented expression to appear in his eyes again. The narrator’s growing timidity around Maxim is amplified by the constant visitors at Manderley, all of whom have come to pay their respects to the new bride.

The narrator feels increasingly shy around these strangers and cannot help but notice their surprise upon meeting her; she realizes that, like Beatrice, everyone she meets at Manderley is comparing her to Rebecca. During a visit with the wife of a bishop from the neighboring town, the narrator finds the courage to bring Rebecca up on conversation. The bishop’s wife tells her everything that she had suspected: Rebecca was beautiful, vivacious, elegant, and sophisticated.

On her way home, her thoughts full of Rebecca, the narrator comes across Frank Crawley and asks him about the boathouse and Rebecca’s death. Frank is unexpectedly reticent about the topic, and the narrator concludes that he was just as much in love with Rebecca as everyone else. Frank assures her that her modesty, sincerity, and kindness are far more important to Maxim than all Rebecca’s glamorous qualities but also admits that Rebecca was the most beautiful creature that he had ever seen.

On a day-to-day basis, the narrator manages to avoid Mrs. Danvers, only speaking to her to approve the daily menu. She acquires a new maid, Clarice, who also comes from a poor background, and the narrator feels much more comfortable assuming a position of authority with her. Although the narrator does not see Mrs. Danvers, she is still preoccupied with Rebecca. Every time she sits in the morning room, she notices more and more details of Rebecca’s personality and style in the decoration of the room.

One morning, the narrator receives a belated wedding present from Beatrice: a collection of art books. Even though the books look out of place among the delicate pieces in the morning room, the narrator impulsively places them on top of the desk. One of the books knocks over a small china cupid, and the narrator hides the broken pieces in a desk drawer. Later in the day, the narrator discovers that Mrs. Danvers has blamed the footman, Robert, for the missing cupid, and is forced to take responsibility.

Maxim is amused by the incident and teases the narrator that she is behaving like a “between-maid,” rather than the mistress of the house. The narrator is humiliated and explains that she feels out of place at Manderley. Maxim tries to comfort her but does not understand why she is upset, and the narrator begins to worry that her marriage is doomed to fail.

At the end of June, Maxim goes to London for the day, and the narrator takes the opportunity to explore the Happy Valley and visit the boathouse in the cove. She encounters the mentally disabled man again—Maxim had told her that his name was Ben—and she tells him not to go inside the boathouse against Maxim’s orders. At first, Ben seems anxious and urges her not to send him to an asylum, but he begins to feel more comfortable with her. She is not like “the other one,” he declares, who gave him the “feeling of a snake.”

The narrator does not understand what Ben is talking about and walks back to the house. She notices Mrs. Danvers and a strange man standing in a window in the west wing, but they withdraw as soon as they see her coming up the path. The narrator goes to the morning room and inadvertently runs into the mysterious man as he is leaving the west wing. Good-looking but overly bold and familiar, the man introduces himself as Jack Favell, a friend of Mrs. Danvers. He suggests that the narrator keep his visit a secret so that Mrs. Danvers does not get in trouble, but the narrator has the sense that there is something dishonest going on.

She goes to the west wing and realizes that Mrs. Danvers and Jack Favell were in Rebecca’s bedroom when she saw them in the window. She opens the bedroom shutter and sees that everything in the bedroom is exactly as it would be if Rebecca were still alive, even down to the nightclothes laid on the bed. Mrs. Danvers comes in and insists on showing the narrator everything in the room: Rebecca’s slippers, hairbrush, fur coats. She begins to talk about Rebecca’s death and tells the narrator that Maxim has not used the rooms in the west wing since the night of the drowning. Mrs. Danvers then asks the narrator if she believes in ghosts and if she has sensed Rebecca’s ghost wandering through the halls. The narrator is suddenly frightened and, after giving Mrs. Danvers a flimsy excuse, goes to her room to lie down.


At this point in the novel, the narrator’s insecurity and fear of Mrs. Danvers have grown to the point that she is unable to function as the mistress of Manderley. She behaves as if she is a guest in Rebecca’s home, following Mrs. Danvers’ set pattern of running the house and failing to assert her authority with any of the servants. The culmination of this behavior is when the narrator accidentally breaks the china cupid in the morning room and hides the pieces rather than admit the mistake to Mrs. Danvers. When Mrs. Danvers discovers the loss of the china cupid and blames Robert, the narrator is forced to take responsibility. Her decision to hide the pieces ultimately makes her look even more foolish to Mrs. Danvers and simply perpetuates the pattern of fear and insecurity.

Ironically, the narrator only breaks the cupid after she attempts to create her own space in the morning room by putting her new art books on the desk in the morning room. On one hand, the broken piece of china seems to reinforce the idea that the narrator is unsuited to be mistress of Manderley. She lacks the necessary refinement and sophistication to preserve the delicate beauty of the estate. Yet, on the other hand, the broken piece of china is merely evidence that the narrator is unable to coexist with Rebecca at Manderley. The only way for the narrator to incorporate herself in the estate is to destroy Rebecca’s presence, a fact that foreshadows the end of the novel.

The narrator’s inability to assert herself at Manderley also begins to affect her marriage. Maxim does not realize the extent to which the narrator is already preoccupied with Rebecca and does not understand why she is incapable of assuming a position of authority. Their relationship continues to develop as that of a parent and child, with Maxim becoming increasingly condescending and aloof. The narrator feels a growing amount of pressure to be Rebecca and, unfortunately, Maxim’s detachment serves as evidence to the narrator that he does not view her as an equal partner or even a wife.

When the narrator meets Ben, she is the subject of yet another comparison with Rebecca: “You’re not like the other one.” Ben then goes on to present a decidedly negative view of Rebecca, unlike any other descriptions that have been presented at this point in the novel. However, because of her own pre-conceived notions about the first Mrs. De Winter, the narrator does not connect Ben’s ominous words with Rebecca and assumes that he is speaking nonsense. Yet, the reader is still able to make the connection, a literary ploy that Du Maurier uses to enhance the sense of mystery surrounding Rebecca and Manderley.

At the end of Chapter 14, the narrator comes face-to-face with Rebecca’s presence by entering her bedroom in the west wing. As with the lipstick-stained handkerchief, the articles in the bedroom provide an ominous demonstration of Rebecca’s lingering presence at Manderley. Mrs. Danvers takes especial pleasure in showing the narrator all of the details of the bedroom, and the narrator becomes overwhelmed with the sheer strength of Rebecca’s spirit. Further developing the Gothic tone of the text, Mrs. Danvers even suggests that Rebecca wanders the halls and specifically watches the narrator when she is with Maxim.

Mrs. Danvers’ treatment of the bedroom provides key insight into her character. While she serves as a physical representation of Rebecca, Du Maurier makes it clear that Mrs. Danvers is also a malevolent figure of her own, one that has her own grudges against the narrator. To some literary critics, Mrs. Danvers’ unfailing devotion to Rebecca is a demonstration of perverse lesbianism, a conclusion that is often discussed in relation to Hitchcock’s 1940 film.