Rebecca

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Rebecca Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator notices right away that life at Manderley is carefully planned and scheduled. Maxim gets up from his bed (the couple sleeps in separate beds, in either the same or adjoining bedrooms, it would appear) early every day—when the narrator comes downstairs, she finds Maxim already finishing breakfast. On her first morning at Manderley, Maxim tells the narrator that his grandmother and his sister, Beatrice, will want to visit them immediately.
Du Maurier conveys the narrator’s awkwardness and lack of comfort at Manderley: she sleeps in too late, and seems unaware of the schedule for the coming weeks. It’s also worth noting that du Maurier glosses over any sexual details in her novel: it appears that Maxim and Rebecca sleep in different beds in the same room, but even this only hinted at. This was a common convention for novels of the period—it would be a long time before censorship codes allowed people to write about sex, or even the vague implication of sex.
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 eats breakfast by herself, until it’s past 10 o’clock. She apologizes to Frith for eating so slowly, and notices that he seems surprised by her. The narrator realizes that she lacks poise and sophistication, since she wasn’t raised in a wealthy household. She goes to the library, which she finds extremely cold. When she asks Frith to light the hearth in the library, he explains that the first Mrs. de Winter usually didn’t light the fire in the morning, but says that from now on it will be lit early. The narrator, reluctant to change the routine, tells Frith that there’s no need to warm the library after all.
At every turn, the narrator finds herself being compared to her predecessor. There’s no particular reason why Frith has to mention that Rebecca used to light the fire later in the day—the only purpose of such an explanation, it would seem, is to remind the narrator that she’s out of place. Plainly, the servants of Manderley are still devoted to the “first Mrs. De Winter,” and the narrator is so uncomfortable that she doesn’t want to challenge the authority of Rebecca—or even the memory of Rebecca.
Themes
Memory Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
In the “morning-room” of the house, the narrator sits with her two dogs. She realizes that even these animals knew what time the library was heated—she’s clueless in her new home. She notices a writing table in the morning-room, and is surprised to see a notebook on which someone has written a list of planning subjects, such as “addresses,” “menus,” etc. She notices that the handwriting is Rebecca’s.
Du Maurier uses some rhetorical tricks to convey a sense of claustrophobic “closeness.” The narrator keeps finding small symbols of Rebecca’s presence; her handwriting, her dogs, her fireplace, etc. It’s as Rebecca is standing right next to the narrator at all times.
Themes
Memory Theme Icon
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
The telephone rings, and the narrator answers it. A low voice asks for “Mrs. de Winter,” and the narrator replies that Mrs. de Winter has been dead for more than a year. Then, the narrator realizes that the voice belongs to Mrs. Danvers—she’s speaking to Mrs. Danvers on a houseline. Danvers explains that she wants to know if the narrator approves of the menus for the day. The narrator replies that she has no preference about the food for the day.
Here, du Maurier makes the narrator’s unease with her new circumstances hilariously plain: the narrator actually admits that she’s not the “true” Lady de Winter. It’s still unclear if Danvers is torturing the narrator deliberately, or if the narrator’s discomfort is all in her head.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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The narrator hangs up the phone and stares at Rebecca’s notebook. Rebecca kept herself busy for years by attending to the affairs of Manderley: the food, the scheduling, etc. Slowly, the narrator takes a pen and writes a letter to Mrs. Van Hopper, explaining that everything is well with her. As she writes, she thinks that she is an “indifferent pupil taught in a second-rate school.”
It’s poignant that the narrator has no one to communicate with from the outside world except for Van Hopper—a woman who, toward the end of their time together, despised and mocked the narrator.
Themes
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon