Rebecca

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Rebecca Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Maxim goes to answer the phone, leaving the narrator alone. She has the strong sense that she, along with Maxim, has murdered Rebecca. And yet she’s no longer afraid of Rebecca, nor does she hate her—indeed, as long as she knows that Maxim never loved Rebecca, Rebecca seems to have lost her power over her.
The narrator’s sense of guilt for Maxim’s crime suggests both her own insecurity and her boundless love for Maxim: she essentially merges her identity into his. She’s been defining herself via her relationship to Maxim for so long that she’s surrendered her own agency. In case the earlier scene was just a fluke, du Maurier now makes it perfectly clear—the narrator is much more relieved to learn that Maxim didn’t love Rebecca than she is shocked or disturbed to learn that Maxim killed Rebecca. The chilling force of Rebecca’s memory and presence now starts to disappear from the novel, as the more conventional “mystery” aspect takes over for a while.
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
Maxim returns from answering the phone, and explains that he’s just spoken to Colonel Julyan, the police magistrate of the local area. Julyan has asked Maxim if he has any idea whose body it could be in the boat. Maxim has answered that he has no idea whatsoever. He’s also told the Colonel that it’s possible that he made a mistake while identifying “Rebecca’s” body last year. As Maxim explains this, the phone rings again, and Maxim goes to answer it. When he returns, he says that the caller was a journalist, asking about the identity of the woman in the boat. This, Maxim concludes, signals the beginning of the gossip about the incident. Tomorrow morning, the police, led by Colonel Julyan, will retrieve the boat from the water and proceed with identifying the corpse.
For Maxim, the danger that the journalists in the community will find out about the “second” person in the boat and make a scandal out of the situation seems just as dangerous and important as the possibility that he might be arrested for murder.
Themes
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
The next morning, the narrator wakes up to find that Maxim has already left the house, presumably to meet with Colonel Julyan and Captain Searle. The narrator orders Robert to send a message to Mrs. Danvers about the menu for the week. Mrs. Danvers comes to meet with the narrator, complaining that Rebecca never used Robert to deliver messages. The narrator coolly replies that she doesn’t care what Rebecca used to do—this information is of no concern to anyone anymore. While the narrator says all this, Robert announces that a reporter from the local paper, the County Chronicle, wants to speak to her. The narrator tells Robert to tell the reporter she’s not at home.
The fact that Maxim has left the house without notifying the narrator—previously a cause for alarm and anxiety—doesn’t disturb the narrator at all anymore, and is a sign of her increased self-reliance and maturity (a maturity that is rather questionable, however, since it seems almost entirely based upon the revelation that Maxim really loves her). The narrator’s refusal to speak to the paper isn’t unusual—at the time, it was highly improper for aristocrats to speak to journalists (there was a saying that aristocrats’ names should appear in the paper only three times—for their birth, their marriage, and their funeral).
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
Mrs. Danvers stares silently at the narrator, then asks why the reporter wanted to speak to her—the narrator replies that she doesn’t know. Danvers also asks if the rumors about Rebecca’s boat are true—again, the narrator denies knowing anything. Mrs. Danvers leaves, and the narrator thinks that she’s no longer afraid of the old woman—now that she knows about Rebecca, she has nothing to fear.
Mrs. Danvers’ power over the narrator stemmed from her access to secret information about Rebecca. Now that the narrator has the same access to this information—and actually knows more about Rebecca than Danvers—Danvers has no more power, and just seems like a pitiful figure now.
Themes
Memory Theme Icon
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
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In the afternoon, Colonel Julyan comes to Manderley with Maxim and Frank Crawley. The narrator remembers seeing the Colonel at the ball, dressed as Oliver Cromwell (a ruler from English history). Julyan is very respectful to the narrator. They chat casually about golf and the weather in France and Monte Carlo. Then, unexpectedly, Julyan turns the conversation to Rebecca’s body. The problem, he explains, is that Maxim has already identified one body as Rebecca’s, when it turns out that a different body is hers. Frank points out that it’s quite natural to mistake one body for another, especially considering the emotional circumstances, and the fact that the body was highly decayed. Julyan agrees, but stresses that the case of Rebecca’s discovery will attract a great deal of unwanted publicity for Maxim and the narrator. As the narrator listens, she makes eye contact with Frank for a second, and realizes that Frank knows what really happened to Rebecca.
From the beginning, Colonel Julyan’s relationship with Maxim as a detective is tied up in his relationship with Maxim as a guest. Surely it’s a conflict of interest for Maxim to be investigated by the same person who attended one of his parties just a few months ago. This suggests that most of the bias in this case is in Maxim’s favor: although the newspapers will assume the absolute worst for the sake of a story, the detectives will always assume the best about Maxim’s intentions, even in the face of evidence that he killed his own wife. At this point in history the landed gentry are less immune to attack and disgrace than before, but they still have clear privileges over everyone else, and part of this means that they get the “benefit of the doubt” in the eyes of the law.
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
Colonel Julyan thanks the narrator and Maxim for their patience, and bids them good day. Maxim and the narrator go to speak in private, and Maxim tells the narrator that the doctors have been unable to find any evidence of the bullet in Rebecca’s body—as far as anyone can tell, Rebecca drowned. Maxim points out that the narrator looks years older—it’s as if by telling her about Rebecca, Maxim has killed off the look of youthful innocence that made him fall in love with the narrator to begin with.
It’s telling that Maxim feels guilty about telling the narrator about Rebecca. On one hand, it suggests that he sincerely cares about his wife, and wants to keep her happy. On the other hand, it suggests that Maxim liked his wife best when she was naïve and childish. As far as we’re concerned, the transformation the narrator has made in the last 30 pages has been one for the better, but for Maxim this may not be the case. He wanted someone innocent and naïve (and also submissive)—the exact opposite of Rebecca.
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