The day after meeting Maxim de Winter, Mrs. Van Hopper wakes up with a fever of 102. While the doctors care for Van Hopper, the narrator goes to eat lunch, alone. In the lunch hall, the narrator sees Maxim, also dining alone. While she’s reaching for her water glass, the narrator spills water all over the tablecloth. Maxim invites the narrator to eat with him, since her own table is soaked. The narrator assumes Maxim is only being polite, but Maxim insists.
In a novel where even the smallest details are carefully planned, Mrs. Van Hopper’s illness is an anomaly: an unpredictable event that has enormous consequences for the narrator and Maxim, bringing them together in situations without distractions or obstacles.
At lunch, Maxim tells the narrator once again that he apologizes for his rudeness. The narrator says that Maxim wasn’t rude—at least not a form of rudeness that Mrs. Van Hopper would understand. As they eat, the narrator thinks about Manderley, the source of Maxim’s fame and prosperity. As a child, the narrator saw a picture of Manderley on a postcard, and was chastised for not having heard of the famous estate.
This is an important scene, because it shows Maxim being more honest and intimate with the narrator. And yet, at the same time, Maxim doesn’t have to talk about himself—he can count on the fact that the narrator already knows about Manderley. Even here, Maxim and the narrator’s relationship is mediated by the existence of Manderley, the source of Maxim’s power and wealth.
The narrator explains to Maxim that she works for Mrs. Van Hopper for a sum of 90 pounds a year. Maxim is confused about why the narrator needs to work for money—she has a lovely and unusual name, he points out. The narrator explains that her family is dead. Maxim wants to hear about the narrator’s father, so she tells him her “family history” (but does not repeat it to the reader). After the narrator has finished explaining her family history, Maxim tells her that they have a lot in common: they’re both lonely people. Maxim has a sister, he explains, but he never sees her—and apart from his sister, he has no living relatives.
The narrator has a family history, but we don’t know what it is. The implication is that whatever social prestige the narrator has is tiny and particular—easy to summarize over a lunch date. In other words, there is an immediate power asymmetry between the narrator and Maxim. Both characters have been trained to value the notion of tradition and family history, and yet one of them has much more of these things to boast of than the other.
Maxim asks the narrator what she’ll be doing with her free afternoon. The narrator says she’s planning to walk around Monaco, sketching. Maxim offers to drive her about in his car, in spite of the narrator’s polite protests. For the rest of the meal, Maxim tells the narrator that she’s made a mistake in working for Mrs. Van Hopper. The narrator is too young, Maxim claims, for such work—she should be thinking of her future. While working for Mrs. Van Hopper may seem like good work at the time, it’ll be difficult to use the job experience to find another job later on. With these words, Maxim tells the narrator that it’s time to walk to his car.
Maxim isn’t shy about criticizing the narrator’s choice to work for Mrs. Van Hopper. There’s something almost flirtatious about his pronouncement—it establishes trust between Maxim and the narrator, and suggests that the narrator “can do better.” Maxim makes it clear to the narrator that he’s an older, more experienced man, who knows much more about the world than she does. Curiously, this makes Maxim seem almost fatherly in the narrator’s eyes—but that also seems to be attractive to her.
The narrator spends the afternoon with Maxim in Monaco, attempting to sketch. Because it’s too cold and windy to sketch for a long time, Maxim offers to drive the narrator to the summit of a nearby hill, where at least they’ll be able to see the beauty of the sea. At the top of this hill, the narrator realizes that Maxim is lost in thought, to the point where he barely remembers that the narrator is present. Suddenly, the narrator turns to Maxim and suggests that they should be getting back to the hotel. Without answering, Maxim says that he’s been to this hill before, many years ago, and it hasn’t changed at all.
Maxim is simultaneously pulling the narrator closer to him and pushing her away. He’s flirtatiously asked her to spend the day with him, and even given her a ride in his car, yet he also clearly has some dark secrets that he’s unwilling to divulge to her so soon. This scene is intended to add to the sense of mystery and past tragedy surrounding Maxim, and it also brings up the theme of memory again. Just as the narrator can’t escape her memories of Manderley (in her present narration), so Maxim seems unable to move past his own troubled memories.
On the car ride back to the Hotel, Maxim tells the narrator about the flowers at Manderley: beautiful violets, tulips, and lilacs. As he speaks, dusk falls on Monte Carlo. They pull up to the Hotel. Maxim thanks the narrator for a wonderful day. He also gives her a volume of poems and tells her that she should read it. He won’t see her that night, he explains, since he’s dining out. With this, the narrator gets out of the car and Maxim drives off.
Manderley is an integral part of Maxim’s identity, so for Maxim to tell the narrator about the physical characteristics of Manderley feels like an intimate act, particularly following the scene on the hill. Even if Maxim doesn’t tell the narrator what’s been troubling him, he at least gives her more information about himself in an effort to build trust with her.
The narrator goes to dinner in the Hotel, where she looks through the volume of poems Maxim gave her. The most frequently thumbed page, she notices, is about a woman who “flees” from “Him” without success. She also notices that on the front page of the book there’s a message: “Max—from Rebecca. 17 May.” She remembers something Mrs. Van Hopper told her the previous day: Maxim’s wife died years ago, drowning in a bay near Manderley. Supposedly Maxim never utters her name.
This is a very important scene, because it’s the first moment in which the narrator tries to understand Maxim’s relationship with his dead wife, Rebecca—who is named here for the first time. Based on his behavior on the hill and this book of poetry, it would appear that Maxim is still haunted by Rebecca’s death and cannot escape his memories of her. He is courting someone new (the narrator) but even a romantic gesture towards her (giving her the book of poetry) only serves as another reminder of Rebecca. The poem’s subject of the woman “fleeing” from “Him” also adds to the mood of control and domination, particularly between men and women.