Rebecca Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-23


Colonel Julyan, the local magistrate, is on the telephone and asks Maxim if he could have made a mistake when he originally identified the body. Maxim and the narrator realize that officials have already identified Rebecca’s body. The narrator suddenly feels anxious that the truth might be discovered. A few minutes later, newspaper reporters begin to call the house to interview Maxim. After dinner, Maxim and the narrator sit quietly together in the library.

The next morning, the narrator begins to institute changes around Manderley. She gives authoritative orders to the servants, changes Mrs. Danvers’ menu, and does not follow any of the household traditions put in place by Rebecca. When Mrs. Danvers confronts her about the changes to the menu, complaining that Rebecca had done things differently, the narrator severely tells her, “I am Mrs. de Winter now, you know.” The narrator realizes that she is no longer frightened of Mrs. Danvers but still hopes that she does not find out the truth about Rebecca’s death.

Colonel Julyan comes to Manderley for lunch and discusses the inquest to determine Rebecca’s cause of death. Colonel Julyan is confident that the cause of death will be ruled as accidental. Considering the high winds and choppy seas that night, it was entirely possible that Rebecca had accidentally hit her head below deck and then the boat capsized. He also acknowledges that Maxim’s mistaken identification of the first body could easily be attributed to an unsteady state of mind.

After Colonel Julyan leaves, Maxim discusses the situation with the narrator. Because there was no sign of the bullet in Rebecca’s body, he is hopeful that the officials at the inquest will agree with Colonel Julyan. Maxim admits that he does not regret killing Rebecca, but he does regret that the narrator has lost her innocence because of his actions.

The next day, all of the local and London newspapers feature a story about the discovery of Rebecca de Winter’s body in the bay at Manderley. The articles paint Maxim as a heartless husband who married a young girl only a few months after the death of his beautiful wife. Frank helps them field calls from newspaper reporters and neighbors, and the narrator begins to suspect that Frank knows that Maxim killed Rebecca.

Later in the day, the narrator goes into town with Maxim and Frank for the inquest into Rebecca’s death. The narrator is too nervous to listen to most of the evidence but does enter the room to hear the last pieces of testimony. The coroner seems likely to rule the death accidental, until the boat builder testifies that someone had drove spikes into the hull of the boat to make it sink. With this revelation, the officials at the inquest begin to question Maxim about the state of his marriage to Rebecca. The narrator fears that the truth is about to be discovered and faints.

Frank takes the narrator back to Manderley, explaining that the boat builder’s testimony has changed the whole course of the inquest. Because of the holes in the hull, the coroner cannot rule Rebecca’s death as an accident. When Maxim finally returns home, he tells the narrator that the coroner has determined Rebecca’s cause of death to be suicide. The narrator begins to hope that they have averted disaster and may have a happy marriage after all.

Later, while Maxim is burying Rebecca at the church, Jack Favell arrives at Manderley and insists on seeing Maxim. He is obviously drunk and tells the narrator that he knows that Rebecca did not commit suicide. Just then, Maxim arrives and insists that Jack Favell leave Manderley immediately. He refuses to leave and, after admitting that he and Rebecca were lovers, shows Maxim a note written to him by Rebecca on the night she died. The note, Jack Favell claims, proves that Rebecca did not commit suicide, and he tries to blackmail Maxim into giving him three thousand pounds a year in order to keep quiet. Frank suggests that Maxim adheres to Jack Favell’s demands, but Maxim refuses and calls Colonel Julyan, telling him to come to Manderley urgently.

When Colonel Julyan arrives, Jack Favell shows him Rebecca’s note and insists that Rebecca would not have killed herself. Colonel Julyan is irritated by his drunken behavior and urges Jack Favell to tell them what really happened. Jack Favell tells Colonel Julyan that Maxim murdered Rebecca, and then begins to laugh.


After the revelation about Rebecca’s death, the narrator is able to take her place as mistress of Manderley. The most significant evidence of this change is her use of her married name: “I am Mrs. de Winter now.” Although her given name is still unknown, the narrator is no longer without an identity. She has overcome Rebecca’s influence and assumed her rightful position as Mrs. de Winter. Moreover, the narrator is not only Maxim’s wife in name: because of their breakthrough in communication, she is now also an equal partner in the relationship.

The narrator’s acceptance of her married name also serves as a critique of Rebecca’s sexual independence and immorality. Throughout the novel, Rebecca’s identity is primarily quantified by her first name, rather than her married title. Even Du Maurier chose to title the novel “Rebecca” instead of “Mrs. de Winter” or “the first Mrs. de Winter.” The connection to her first name demonstrates her independence and personal strength, but it also suggests that she had no true connection with anyone other than herself. In fact, the only person with whom she has a real relationship is Mrs. Danvers, and it is no coincidence that Rebecca assumes Mrs. Danvers’ name when she visits Dr. Baker. While the narrator’s decision to assume the identity of Mrs. de Winter may seem to prove her dependence on Maxim, but it also reveals her connection with those around her and her place in the society of Manderley.

At this point, the narrator’s part in the conflict of the novel is finished; she has won her battle against Rebecca. The narrative structure now focuses on Maxim and his personal struggle against Rebecca. Now that the reader understands the source of Maxim’s anguish and guilt, he becomes a much more sympathetic character, especially in terms of his relationship with the narrator. By revealing the failings of his marriage with Rebecca and his selfish concern for the state of Manderley, Maxim becomes more human in the eyes of the reader.

Interestingly, as the investigation into Rebecca’s death begins, Maxim no longer appears to have any desire to keep the murder a secret. His only reason for maintaining the pretense is the realization that he would be separated from the narrator, just as they are beginning their marriage as equals. However, Maxim has lived with the guilt of his actions for so long that he no longer feels capable of keeping his secret. Just as the narrator reached a breaking point in her battle with Rebecca before the rockets hit the cove, Maxim is at his own breaking point, faced with the decision to continue pretending or confess his guilt and let Rebecca win.

When Maxim refuses to give blackmail money to Jack Favell and calls Colonel Julyan, he is in essence making the decision to let the truth come out. Nevertheless, by making himself a willing sacrifice, Maxim ultimately undercuts Rebecca’s power over him. Since her death, Rebecca has maintained control over him, determining his choices and actions, even in his marriage with the narrator. By calling Colonel Julyan himself, Maxim takes control of his life and ensures that he will no longer be crippled by the fear that someone will find out the truth about Rebecca.