In the late morning after the ball, the narrator wakes up to find a tray of cold tea waiting for her—Clarice must have left it for her hours ago. The narrator remembers her decision to enter the ball wearing her blue dress. She didn’t do it for Maxim or for Beatrice—she did it because of her own pride.
The costume party is a major turning point in the novel, and here, du Maurier explains why. Returning to the ball in her blue dress is one of the first moments in the book in which the narrator chooses to do something out of her own sense of pride, rather than to please the people around her.
As the narrator gets out of bed, she realizes that she’s simply not suited for life with Maxim—Mrs. Van Hopper was right all along. Maxim wants to have a new wife, but deep down he still belongs to Rebecca and no one else. Indeed, most of Maxim’s family and servants are still deeply loyal to Rebecca, despite her death. The narrator can feel Rebecca’s presence everywhere at Manderley.
The narrator tries to understand why Maxim shouted at her the previous night. Her conclusion is that her appearance reminded Maxim of Rebecca in some way, and as a result Maxim became angry with her for trying to imitate Rebecca. Since the narrator has long assumed that Maxim married her in order to be a replacement for Rebecca, it’s heartbreaking for her to think that her replacement has been a failure.
The narrator imagines guests talking about the ball they’ve attended the previous night. Perhaps they’ll agree that the ball was a success, even if the narrator seemed “rather dull,” and Maxim seemed visibly aged. As the narrator walks to her door, she sees a note scribbled in pencil. The note, from Beatrice, thanks the narrator for a lovely evening, and tells her not to think any further about her dress.
Although the narrator continues to daydream about possibilities, her daydreams now seem more realistic and less anxious than before. Beatrice once again proves herself an ally to the narrator, even if an inconsistent one.
Downstairs, the narrator greets Robert and asks where Maxim might be—Robert reports that he left the house after breakfast. The narrator spends the afternoon playing with Jasper. When she can’t distract herself any more, she calls Frank at the estate office. Frank reports that Maxim isn’t with him. The narrator tells Frank that Maxim thinks she was playing a joke on him, dressing as his dead wife. Frank, who sounds uncomfortable even over the phone, assures her that Maxim doesn’t think this. The narrator, feeling more and more emotional, insists that Maxim is still in love with Rebecca. Frank says that he’s coming to see the narrator right away.
As was the case before, Frank is a useful sounding board for the narrator, in the sense that she can tell him how she’s feeling about Maxim. Here, for example, she admits for the first time that she’s afraid he’s still in love with Rebecca—a fear that she’s been feeling for months now, but which she’s been unable to put into words. In many ways, Frank is a better friend to the narrator than Maxim: he’s attentive to her emotional needs, where Maxim is mostly ignorant.
The narrator waits for Frank to arrive. She senses that she’ll never see Maxim again—that he’s left her forever. She walks across the grounds of Manderley, thinking angrily of Mrs. Danvers. It was Danvers who planned her humiliation, and it’s possible that Danvers was listening to her conversation with Frank just now.
The narrator is sure that Maxim will leave her, but she only believes this because of the way she’s interpreted their marriage so far. The narrator believes that Maxim wants her to replace Rebecca in every way—she thinks Maxim is done with her because she has failed to live up to Rebecca’s ideal.
Furious, the narrator goes to confront Mrs. Danvers about last night’s fiasco. She finds Danvers in the west wing of the house, and is surprised to see that Danvers has been crying. Danvers no longer looks like an evil old woman—now, she’s strangely childish and pathetic. Nevertheless, the narrator tells her that they need to speak immediately. Danvers whispers, “Why did you ever come here?” In response, the narrator asks, “Why do you hate me?” Danvers replies, “You tried to take Mrs. de Winter’s place.”
Ironically, Mrs. Danvers’s plan in the previous chapter has made the narrator less afraid of her, not more afraid. Previously, Mrs. Danvers was intimidating and unpredictable—but now that she’s shown her hand as a desperate old woman trying to manipulate someone young and naive, she seems less powerful and more pitiable. It’s telling that du Maurier compares Danvers to a small child (the same comparison du Maurier has made in referring to the narrator)—the narrator is seemingly switching roles with Danvers.
The narrator stares into Mrs. Danvers’s old, wizened face. Danvers explains that ever since the narrator has come to Manderley, Maxim has been miserable—if the narrator had truly loved Maxim, Danvers insists, she’d never have married him. Rebecca, Danvers recalls, had the spirit “of a boy,” and “ought to have been a boy.” Danvers took care of Rebecca when Rebecca was only a child. As Danvers continues talking, her voice grows stronger and louder, and a twisted smile crosses her mouth. Danvers cries, “The sea got her in the end,” and then weeps silently.
This is one of the most psychologically acute moments in the book. It gives us a rare insight into why Mrs. Danvers loved Rebecca so passionately—in her view, Rebecca was powerful and charismatic in a way that’s usually reserved for men. In a way, Rebecca did the things that Mrs. Danvers could never do herself: she controlled a household; she influenced her husband instead of being influenced by him, etc. In a novel about the importance of gender roles (particularly for women), Rebecca exists outside these roles altogether: she’s freed herself from societal expectations about how women should behave. This scene will be important again later on, as evidence for the theory that Maxim is the real villain of the book.
The narrator isn’t sure what to do with Mrs. Danvers. She tells her to go to her room, but Mrs. Danvers shouts that the narrator has no power over her. She accuses the narrator of ratting her out to Maxim after Jack Favell visited Manderley—an accusation that the narrator denies. Mrs. Danvers tells the narrator, “you’re never going to get the better of her,” and adds, “She’s the real Mrs. de Winter.”
It’s disturbing how Danvers refers to Rebecca as if she is still alive and in a struggle with the narrator. It’s also telling that this struggle is to be the “real Mrs. de Winter”—both women are defined by their relation to Maxim, not on their own merits or actions.
Mrs. Danvers opens a nearby window, from which the narrator can see the fog and the ocean in the distance. Danvers tells the narrator she should jump out. There’s no point in the narrator staying at Manderley, Danvers explains—no one loves her. As Danvers speaks, the narrator walks closer and closer to the window. Eventually, she’s standing right next to the window, with Mrs. Danvers whispering, “Jump … jump.”
In this chilling moment, it’s as if Rebecca herself is controlling both the narrator and Mrs. Danvers. Both women feel desperate and hopeless, and they seem to be acting almost in a trance.
Suddenly, there’s a loud “boom.” Mrs. Danvers explains that a ship on the water is firing off a rocket. The narrator hears shouts and footsteps coming from the grounds of Manderley outside.
In a “deus ex machina” (“god from the machine,” or some outside force suddenly arriving and saving the day) moment, the narrator is freed from her trance state just in time.