Rebecca

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Rebecca Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When the narrator regains consciousness, she finds Frank standing with her outside the station. Frank suggests that they go back to Manderley, but the narrator insists that she wants to stay and listen to Maxim talk to Horridge. The narrator says that she’s worried for Maxim, since it’s come out that Rebecca’s boat was deliberately scuttled (sunk). She remembers seeing Jack Favell at the inquest, but Frank explains that Jack has the right to attend it, since he’s Rebecca’s cousin.
The narrator seems more nervous about the inquest than Maxim. This isn’t the case, of course—Maxim is simply better than the narrator at disguising his emotions. As the chapter begins, du Maurier suggests that Jack Favell will be an important character for the rest of the novel, and will arguably become the primary antagonist—a less glamorous, complex stand-in for Rebecca herself.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
Over the narrator’s protestations, Frank drives the narrator back to Manderley, and then drives back to the station to assist Maxim. The narrator walks to her room and lies down in bed, trying to make sense of what has happened. She imagines Maxim being arrested by the police for murdering his wife, being sentenced to death, and being hanged.
The narrator continues with her habit of fantasizing about possible turns of events. Previously, her fantasies were fairly trivial (a few chapters ago, she imagined her guests laughing behind her back), but now her fantasies have become more gruesome, reflecting the huge changes in her life in the last two days.
Themes
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
Hours later, Maxim enters the narrator’s bedroom. He explains, “it’s all over.” The Coroner has concluded that Rebecca died by suicide, though he doesn’t know the motive: as far as the police are concerned, suicide is the most likely explanation for a bizarre death. Maxim believes that he kept a “stiff upper lip” throughout the proceeding, fooling Horridge into thinking he had no idea how Rebecca died.
Here, Maxim’s calmness and stoicism was a major asset, fooling the investigators into believing that Rebecca’s death was a suicide. Although this seems a strange conclusion (particularly because Rebecca was so well liked in her community), it’s the simplest explanation in what, to the investigators, seems like a bizarre case. It’s also likely that the investigators naturally favor Maxim because of his status and family history, and so they too want to avoid a scandal for him.
Themes
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
Maxim says he’s going to the crypt on Manderley property, where Rebecca will be buried that evening. The narrator waits in her bedroom, imagining Maxim standing with Frank and Colonel Julyan, listening to the priest read Rebecca a prayer. While Maxim is out, Frith announces that a gentleman has come to visit: it’s Jack Favell.
It is now made clear that Jack Favell will be an important character for the rest of the book. He knows the truth about Rebecca’s life, and suspects Maxim of foul play. The interesting thing is that he’s right, but we’re meant (presumably) to take the side of the murderer, and hope that Maxim escapes justice.
Themes
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
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The narrator goes downstairs to greet Jack Favell, who’s smiling oddly. Favell asks the narrator if Maxim is “running off.” He notes that the narrator has grown up since they last spoke—she seems more mature and confident. He asks her, point-blank, “You think I’m a big, bad wolf, don’t you?” When the narrator doesn’t reply, he explains that he misses his cousin terribly. He and Rebecca were brought up together, and he loved her dearly. He tells the narrator he knows Rebecca didn’t kill herself.
This important scene reminds us that the narrator has become bolder and braver in the last few days, and it also further reveals that Jack is an unlikable man. And yet Jack is also a sympathetic character—we don’t have any major reasons to doubt him when he says he loved Rebecca, and wants to see her killer punished for his crime. This has added to the argument of some critics that Maxim really is the villain of the novel—Jack, while not exactly a hero, is at least on the side of justice and wants to avenge his beloved cousin’s death. Jack’s words to the narrator also imply that he knows Maxim has painted himself and Rebecca as villains—but whether Maxim’s portrayals are true or false is almost impossible to say. (It’s also worth remembering again that the only explanation of Rebecca’s wickedness comes from Maxim himself, suggesting the unreliability of this interpretation of Rebecca’s character.)
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 to Manderley and finds the narrator talking to Jack Favell. Jack greets Maxim cheerily and congratulates him sarcastically on the inquest results. Maxim coolly tells Favell to leave immediately. Favell tells Maxim he knows that Maxim, the narrator, and Frank know the truth about Rebecca—i.e., they know that Rebecca and Favell were lovers. Favell says he also knows to a certainty that Rebecca would never have killed herself—surely, Maxim must have something to do with her death. Favell casually suggests that he could be kept quiet for a few thousand pounds a year. He insists that he has enough evidence to make Maxim hang: just before she died, Rebecca sent Favell a note, saying that she needed to see him immediately. This is proof that Rebecca didn’t intend to kill herself, and thus would suggest that she was murdered.
Favell is hardly an admirable character—he cares more about getting rich than about restoring justice to his cousin’s memory—and yet there’s nothing definitive in the text to suggest that he’s any worse than Maxim. Jack’s a blackmailer, but Maxim is a murderer. At the time of its publication, critics treated Rebecca as a fairly typical mystery thriller, where the differences between the good and evil characters were obvious. Increasingly, however, critics read du Maurier’s novel as a blurring of the differences between good and evil characters—one could conceivably see Maxim as a hero or a villain, and the same could go for Jack.
Themes
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
Maxim calmly says that Favell should leave, or he’ll call Colonel Julyan and tell him about Favell’s affair with Rebecca. Favell laughs and says he’d be happy to talk to Julyan that evening. Maxim decides to call Favell’s bluff: he calls Colonel Julyan on the spot and tells him to come to Manderley right away.
Du Maurier sets up the scene that will dominate the rest of the chapter. After hundreds of pages of build-up, the characters are finally divulging their secrets, and now they must face the law and their ultimate fates.
Themes
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
It takes a long time for Colonel Julyan to come to Manderley. Favell sits in Manderley, reading the newspaper. The narrator fantasizes about shooting him and hiding the body. After more than an hour, Colonel Julyan arrives. Maxim greets Julyan and introduces him to Favell. Favell tells Julyan he has important information to share: a note that Rebecca sent him. He shows Julyan the note, which seems to suggest that Rebecca didn’t intend to kill herself: she’d told Favell to come down to Manderley immediately to talk to her.
There’s no way to verify whether or not Jack’s note is real or a forgery (indeed, it seems odd that Julyan wouldn’t inquire about this possibility). There are a few ways to interpret this. One is that du Maurier isn’t writing a strictly realistic novel, so since the letter isn’t particularly important to the rest of the book, there’s no need for a distracting subplot involving Rebecca’s handwriting. Another possibility, however, is that Colonel Julyan just isn’t taking Jack seriously—mostly because Jack seems aggressive and unlikeable, and Maxim is considered an “upright man” with great prestige in the community. The narrator’s fantasies now grow more disturbing, as she seems to have further subsumed herself into Maxim’s identity—she now daydreams about murder as a way to solve the couple’s problems.
Themes
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As Colonel Julyan listens to Favell, the narrator senses that he’s taken an intense disliking to Favell. When Favell has finished explaining why the note disproves the suicide hypothesis, Julyan tells Favell that all the other evidence of the case points to suicide. He asks Favell what he thinks happened to Rebecca. Favell replies, without any hesitation, that Maxim murdered Rebecca.
It’s almost refreshing to see Jack Favell lay all his cards on the table. There’s been so much implication and insinuation in this novel that for a character to simply say what he’s thinking is a genuine anomaly.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon