Rebecca

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Rebecca Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator sees very little of Mrs. Danvers in the coming days, and she senses that Danvers is making herself scarce. The narrator remembers what Beatrice said—that Danvers adored Rebecca—and finds herself feeling sorry for Mrs. Danvers: she’s devoted to a woman who’s no longer alive. The narrator finds that the only person in the house who doesn’t look down on her is a maid named Clarice, who’s too young to remember Rebecca.
As time goes on, the narrator begins to be a little less afraid of Mrs. Danvers. There’s something pathetic, she realizes, about being devoted to a dead woman. And yet, ironically, the narrator obsesses over Rebecca almost as often as Danvers does. The only person at Manderley completely free of Rebecca’s influence seems to be Clarice.
Themes
Memory Theme Icon
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
The narrator receives a wedding present from Beatrice—a large multi-volume text called A History of Painting. There’s a note with the book, “I hope this is the sort of thing you like.” The narrator finds it touching and slightly pathetic that Beatrice went to so much trouble to find her a gift that she’d like. While she’s looking over the books, the narrator accidentally breaks a small china cupid on a nearby table. Embarrassed, she takes an envelope and sweeps the pieces into it, then hides the envelope in a bookshelf.
The narrator’s behavior is at its most childish in this scene—instead of taking responsibility for her actions, she tries to conceal them altogether. This suggests that the narrator continues to think of herself as a guest in Manderley, when, in reality, everything in Manderley now belongs to her, meaning that she can do whatever she wants with it.
Themes
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
The next day, Frith asks to speak to Maxim. Frith reveals that there’s been a problem with Robert, a servant in the house. Mr. Danvers has accused Robert of stealing a valuable ornament from the morning-room, and Robert has denied this. As the narrator listens to Frith and Maxim speak, she realizes that she was responsible for breaking the ornament in question—a small china cupid. After Frith leaves, the narrator admits to Maxim that she broke the cupid. She’s very embarrassed, but Maxim insists that she go tell Mrs. Danvers what became of the ornament. The narrator refuses, and Maxim points out that she seems afraid of Mrs. Danvers. Impatiently, he goes to speak with Mrs. Danvers himself.
The narrator’s behavior is utterly immature in this scene—she’s like a sheepish schoolgirl, admitting she’s done wrong. By the same token, Maxim’s behavior seems particularly paternalistic here, as he scolds his wife as if she were his daughter. While we can fault Maxim for belittling his wife, the broader point is that he doesn’t understand the narrator’s relationship to Mrs. Danvers: he’s so used to Mrs. Danvers that he doesn’t understand why she’d be intimidating for a new resident of the manor.
Themes
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
A short while later, Maxim and Mrs. Danvers come back to where the narrator is sitting. Mrs. Danvers, who is blank-faced as ever, tells the narrator that she should tell her directly when she’s broken something, so as to avoid any misunderstandings. Maxim, amused by the incident, asks the narrator what became of the pieces—she admits that she scooped them into an envelope. Maxim tells her to send the pieces to a shop in London where the cupid might be repaired. When Danvers leaves the room, Maxim asks the narrator, almost angrily, why she’s so afraid of Danvers.
In this scene, it’s almost amusing how clearly Mrs. Danvers is suppressing her real emotions. Danvers calmly tells the narrator to be upfront with her in the future, but in reality, she’s seething with anger and contempt for the current Lady de Winter—a poor substitute, she believes, for Rebecca.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
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The narrator tells Maxim that her closest friend at Manderley is the servant girl, Clarice. Maxim, who’s known Clarice as his servant for years, remembers Clarice’s mother, an old, sloppy woman who had 9 young children. The narrator realizes why Clarice didn’t sneer at her underclothes—Clarice herself was brought up in a poorer environment.
The narrator and Clarice are kindred spirits because they’re both perpetually out of place at Manderley. In no small part, this is because they remember a time when they didn’t live at Manderley—when their lives were harder but also less mysterious.
Themes
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
The narrator goes on to tell Maxim that she’s been frustrated in her new lifestyle. Maxim, she explains, is used to a life of visits, parties, and elaborate lunches—but she is not. She suggests that Maxim married her for exactly this reason—she’s quiet and calm, meaning that there wouldn’t be any idle gossip about her reputation. Maxim looks angry, and demands to know who the narrator has been talking to. The narrator, feeling afraid, says that she hasn’t been talking to anybody, and apologizes to her husband. Maxim seems to forgive the narrator.—he kisses her forehead and calls her “lamb.”
The narrator shows a bit more maturity here, telling Maxim exactly—or almost exactly—what’s been on her mind. Frustratingly, Maxim seems not to understand the source of the narrator’s dissatisfaction: while he grasps that she’s out of her element at Manderley, he seems to think that it’s only a matter of time before she adjusts to her new life. He also assumes that this is a problem she must deal with on her own, while he just has to “forgive” her for being unhappy. He also continues to belittle and infantilize her, even calling her “lamb.”
Themes
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
The narrator apologizes to Maxim once again for breaking the china cupid. She asks him if it was valuable, and where it came from. Maxim claims not to remember, but guesses that it was a wedding present, since “Rebecca knew a lot about china.” The narrator is shocked to hear Maxim pronounce his dead wife’s name.
Maxim speaking Rebecca’s name in the narrator’s presence seems to show the couple’s growing closeness. On the other hand, this might also be another sign that much of the narrator’s anxiety is in her own head. She has built up a fear and awe of Rebecca, partly out of the rumors she heard about Maxim before their marriage (such as that he never utters his wife’s name), but it’s unclear how much the narrator’s ideas correspond to reality, especially because Maxim now seems so casual about mentioning Rebecca.
Themes
Memory Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon