Daphne Du Maurier's novel 'Rebecca' can be interpreted in various lights; for instance, for many, it is commonly held to follow the form of a fairy tale. While there is, no doubt, adequate ground for this interpretation, the novel's characteristics seem to embody more the elements of the gothic romance genre. Basis for the novel's existence as a fairy tale seem to reside in the thought that Rebecca details a kind of re-telling of the classic Cinderella story. While the novel's plot of a poor, naïve, orphaned girl who is saved from a miserable existence (as a paid companion to the snobbish Mrs. Van Hopper) by the handsome and wealthy Maxim de Winter, does in fact appear to emulate the story of Cinderella; the novel's mystery, darkness, and ambiguity of good and evil seem to more closely parallel the characteristics of a gothic romance, with its ominous presence of the haunting Manderly, the naïve and inconsequential heroine battling for the affection of the supermale Maxim de Winter, with the lively and, in many ways, more present ghost of his first wife, Rebecca. Hence, 'Rebecca' seems to embody the characteristics, set forth by Joanna Russ, of a gothic romance with its depiction of the house (Manderley), the heroine, the super-male (Maxim), the other woman (Rebecca), the ominous dialogue, the secret (about Rebecca's death), and the untangling (the knowledge of Maxim's crime).
[...] Danvers, who from the beginning is seen as an antagonist to the narrator described as tall and gaunt, dressing in “deep black” with “prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes” that gave her a skull's face, whose hand is “deathly cold” and “lifeless” is made sympathetic due to her sufferings at the loss of her beloved friend. Jack Favell, Rebecca's cousin and though innocent in that he is not a murderer, appears in every way, due to his opposition to the hero and heroine, to take on the role of the villain. [...]
[...] Maxim describes the contrast between the ominous and dark and the happy valley as shocking, so sudden that it nearly hurts (123). Moreover, when the narrator enters Rebecca's cottage by the sea, she describes it as “dark and oppressive” she reveals that an air of fearfulness has come upon her, having an uneasy feeling that she might come upon something she had no wish to see, something horrible that might harm her (126). With this it is clear that both aspects of Manderley are enchanted in themselves; the one is pleasant (much like the enchanted kingdoms' of fairy tales), while the other is dark, mysterious and secretive. [...]
[...] In other words, Rebecca presents a tale of unease and darkness, whose ending is far from the “happily ever after” typical of fairy tales. Upon beginning her story, the narrator declares, wonder what my life would be today, if Mrs. Van Hopper had not been a snob” (12). This opening declaration almost presents a kind of resentment on the narrator's part that her life could have turned out differently, perhaps for the better. She then proceeds to detail her life with Mrs. [...]
[...] Thus, unlike in the classic Cinderella story, the narrator's fantasies and dreams do not come true, she rather has to settle for a different kind of happiness. The remainder of the story details the narrator's life at Manderley. Manderley in itself embodies a major quality typical of the gothic genre; it is both enchanting and ominous, taking on a personality of its own. Thus, the house takes on the motif of the double, for it has both positive and negative qualities. [...]
[...] And, since the narrator has only heard positive views of Rebecca as “tremendously popular” with “such a personality” as extremely gifted and beautiful (139) with amazing gift of being attractive to people” (210) she, naturally, assumes that her difference from Rebecca renders her inferior. Even when Ben, who is always assumed to be idiot”, tells her that she is not like the other one (meaning Rebecca), that she has “angel's and that the other (Rebecca), “tall and dark, gave you the feeling of a snake” the narrator does not understand, assuming him to be out of his mind, for, she has built up such an image of Rebecca as the ideal, that she is unable to associate anything negative with her. [...]
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