The narrator remembers having to leave Manderley recently. She and her husband (unnamed for the moment) are staying in various hotels. Strangely, being away from Manderley has reminded the narrator that she and her husband have aged visibly.
Du Maurier reinforces the connection between Manderley and the past. It was like a timeless place of tradition and agelessness, and when the characters are forced to leave it, they seem to age quickly.
The narrator remembers the rest of her time in Monte Carlo with Mrs. Van Hopper. Van Hopper asks her if she’ll accompany her to New York at the end of the summer. The narrator is reluctant to take Van Hopper up on this offer, but Mrs. Van Hopper tells her that she’ll be able to find men “in your class.”
Mrs. Van Hopper plays the part of an overpowering mother to the narrator in trying to find her a suitor—but Van Hopper’s helpfulness is, of course, condescending and belittling, as she thinks that the narrator is fit for lower-class men only.
Mrs. Van Hopper comes to the end of her time at Monte Carlo, and the narrator is seriously considering accompanying her to New York. On Van Hopper’s last night in Monte Carlo, the narrator cries herself to sleep.
The narrator’s relationship with Maxim has seemed like happy, mysterious dream to her, but now she senses that it must end. She could never be with someone like Maxim—as Van Hopper suggests, she must stick to her class.
The next morning, the narrator wakes up early and dines with Mrs. Van Hopper, who’s oblivious to her companion’s sadness. Suddenly, the narrator gets up and goes to Maxim’s room. She tells Maxim that she’s come to say goodbye. She explains that she’s going to New York with Mrs. Van Hopper, although she’ll be miserable there. Maxim nods and asks the narrator a question: would she prefer New York or Manderley? Surprised, the narrator says she’d prefer Manderley, of course. Maxim tells the narrator that he’s proposing marriage to her. She’s shocked—even though she feels strong feelings for Maxim, she never imagined that he’d want to marry her. Tearfully, she tells Maxim that she’s been crying all night, because she’d thought that she would never see him again. Maxim nods, and tells the narrator that she’ll be his companion, just as she is to Mrs. Van Hopper: she’ll dine with him, spend the day with him, etc.
This rather disturbing scene is one of the first suggestions that Maxim might be the real villain of this book (see Themes). In essence Maxim is telling the narrator that he’ll treat her the same way Mrs. Van Hopper treats her: he’ll take care of her financially, and in return she’ll have to be a good “companion” to him. It’s also crucial to note that the narrator never actually says “Yes” to Maxim in this scene: she’s so immature and unsure of herself that she can’t commit to a decision (or at least say it out loud). It’s equally telling that Maxim interprets the narrator’s response as a “Yes.” He assumes he is doing her a favor, and she should be honored.
The narrator imagines being Maxim’s wife, and has an almost hallucinatory vision of walking around Manderley with Maxim. She realizes that she’ll become Lady de Winter—she imagines writing this name on her letters, her checks, etc. Every day, she’ll go to parties, dine with her husband, etc.
Du Maurier has already foreshadowed this theme, which will only grow more important as the novel progresses—the narrator believes that she’ll have to become Rebecca (Lady de Winter) to be Maxim’s wife. This signifies the narrator’s uncertainty and immaturity: rather than living as her own person, she thinks she needs to become someone else in order to make Maxim happy.
The narrator ends her vision, and finds herself sitting before Maxim in the hotel. Maxim tells her that he’s going to break the news of the engagement to Mrs. Van Hopper. Together, they walk to Mrs. Van Hopper’s hotel room. Instead of walking inside, the narrator goes to her room next door, and listens through the walls as Maxim explains that he’s going to marry the narrator. Van Hopper obsequiously tells Maxim that this is a wonderful idea. In her own room, the narrator scans the volume of poetry that Maxim gave her. On the title page, she sees the “R” of Rebecca’s name—an “R” that gets bigger and bigger the longer she stares at it. She overhears Maxim telling Mrs. Van Hopper that he and the narrator are in love. This surprises the narrator, because Maxim didn’t tell her he was in love with her when he proposed. Frustrated, the narrator tears out the dedication page of the book and throws it in the fire.
Notably, this is the only scene in the novel in which Maxim interacts with people from the narrator’s life before Manderley. The narrator has no family for Maxim to meet, which reinforces the idea that Van Hopper is a mother-figure to the narrator. Furthermore, the narrator seems distant and cut off from Maxim, even though they’re about to be married. In the scene, she’s even listening to his voice through a wall as she first hears him say that he loves her. The narrator also continues to grapple with Rebecca’s legacy, as she still thinks of Rebecca as a rival for Maxim’s affections.
After Maxim leaves Mrs. Van Hopper’s room, the narrator goes in, reluctantly and fearfully. Van Hopper is cold, and says that the narrator is lucky that Van Hopper had influenza. She faults the narrator for lying to her about her whereabouts, and reminds her that Maxim is years older than she is: he’s 42. Van Hopper asks the narrator if she’s been “doing anything you shouldn’t.” The narrator doesn’t know what this means, and Van Hopper laughs cruelly. She tells the narrator that she’ll be hopelessly lost at Manderley—unable to survive at the balls and elaborate parties. In conclusion, Van Hopper says that the narrator is making “a big mistake, one you will bitterly regret.”
This scene confirms every misgiving the narrator had about Van Hopper, who’s revealed to be a bitter, nasty old woman. Although Van Hopper had seemed enthusiastic about helping the narrator find a husband, it’s clear that she mostly just wanted the narrator to “know her place”—in other words, to marry someone low-class. Van Hopper treats the narrator’s behavior as impertinent—she might even be jealous of the narrator’s success and happiness. And yet Mrs. Van Hopper, for all of her cruelty, makes a good point: like it or not, the narrator will be hopelessly out of place in a manor house.
The narrator leaves Monte Carlo with Maxim. But she can’t stop thinking about what Mrs. Van Hopper told her: Maxim is only marrying her because he’s slowly going insane after his wife’s death.
The narrator has been trying to forget about Rebecca, but now, she realizes this is harder than she’d thought. Even after burning Rebecca’s name, the narrator can’t shake the suspicion that Maxim doesn’t really love her—that he’s measuring her against his memory of his previous wife.