The narrator learns more about Rebecca in the coming weeks. The servants ask the narrator if she’ll be hosting many guests, and when the narrator replies that she’s unsure, they often note that Rebecca was “so very popular.” The narrator also becomes conscious that there’s now tension between herself and Maxim due to her outburst about the cottage. He’s always polite with her, but there’s a distance between them now.
The “wall” between Maxim and the narrator is getting wider due to their argument about Rebecca. Paradoxically, the narrator is becoming more comfortable with her life at Manderley at the same time, even if she still resents the servants for being loyal to Rebecca.
One day, the narrator pays a visit to the wife of the local bishop. She says that she’s here to pay her respects and greet her new neighbors. Together, she and the bishop’s wife talk about hosting parties in the near future. The bishop’s wife remembers the wonderful parties organized by Rebecca, and the narrator blurts out, “Rebecca must have been a wonderful person.” When the narrator says this, she feels instantly relieved. She’s been thinking about Rebecca for so long that saying her name out-loud is a massive relief.
In this section, we learn about Rebecca’s power over her community: due to the parties she hosted every year, Rebecca was popular and well liked by everyone—not just those at Manderley. In other words, Rebecca’s influence is even greater than we’d thought. The fact that it’s a relief simply to talk about Rebecca suggests that the narrator’s anxiety stems from her attempts to ignore or forget Rebecca, rather than discuss her with Maxim head-on.
The narrator gets up to leave. The bishop’s wife tells the narrator to pass on her respects to Maxim, and to ask him to reorganize a ball that Rebecca used to host at Manderley. For the rest of the day, the narrator finds herself obligated to pay visits to the houses in the area. She quickly becomes exasperated with these visits, however—she finds them cloying and insincere, since most of the people only want to know when the next party at Manderley will be. Sometimes, the guests bring up Rebecca, and sometimes they imply her presence, as if she’s still alive and living in Manderley.
As the narrator gets more comfortable with Manderley, she finds that there’s a “script” she must follow at all times. As part of this script, she has to visit houses in the area and pretend to be polite and gracious to her neighbors. Life at Manderley consists almost entirely of rules for politeness and good manners—rules which, as we’ve seen with Mrs. Danvers, usually just serve to conceal people’s true feelings of contempt or dislike.
At the end of the day, the narrator drives back to Manderley and finds Frank Crawley waiting there. He greets the narrator, and the narrator thinks that she finds him very formal. The narrator asks Frank about the Manderley ball, and he explains that this ball was an annual affair, attended by hundreds of people from London and the country. The narrator confesses that she wouldn’t be good at planning a ball.
Although Frank Crawley is formal and stiff around the narrator, he at least gives her some information about the past. Since the narrator has been uninformed about Rebecca for so long, any straightforward information comes as a big relief.
The narrator asks Frank about Ben, the mentally challenged man who was working on the Manderley grounds. The narrator mentions the cottage that she entered. She explains that inside, it’s dirty and dusty—clearly no one enters it anymore. Frank seems uncomfortable discussing the cottage—eventually, the narrator asks, point-blank, if the cottage is full of Rebecca’s things. Frank says that it is.
Everyone at Manderley knows about Rebecca, and yet no one seems particularly willing to talk about her. This is the source of Rebecca’s power over the narrator: the narrator feels Rebecca’s influence everywhere, and this influence is all the more intimidating because it’s almost never discussed explicitly.
The narrator, sensing that Frank is going to be honest with her, asks Frank how Rebecca died. He explains that she was sailing on the ocean when her boat capsized and sank—Rebecca must have drowned while trying to swim back. It took two months for a body to be found. She asks Frank how the police were able to identify the body, then immediately feels ashamed for asking such a gruesome question. She apologizes for her line of questioning.
So far, the narrator has been forced to accept that Rebecca was a hugely important person to her husband, while also accepting that she can never ask Maxim about her. The line of questioning that the narrator pursues with Frank proves how desperate she’s been for information about Rebecca ever since meeting Maxim.
The narrator tries to explain herself to Frank. She tells him that everyone in her new life compares her to Rebecca. She admits that she’s beginning to feel that she should never have married Maxim. Frank assures her that she’s done Maxim a “great good” by marrying him. He adds that while the narrator doesn’t come from a noble background, she’s kind and sincere—far more valuable qualities. The narrator is surprised with Frank—at first, she’d thought him a quiet, trivial man. She tells Frank that she’s glad they’re friends now.
Frank phrases his response to the narrator oddly—instead of telling her that she didn’t make a mistake, he says that the narrator has been good for Maxim. This is reminiscent of Beatrice’s remarks about the narrator being good for Maxim’s health: even the narrator’s friends seem to think of her as an object, a remedy for Maxim’s depression. However, Frank also proves himself to be a kind, genuine man—a rarity in this novel.
The narrator and Frank walk back to the front of Manderley. The narrator asks Frank if Rebecca was beautiful, and he admits that she was extremely beautiful.
The narrator’s questions prove that she still isn’t over her insecurity: she’s still competing with Rebecca for Maxim’s affections.