Daphne du Maurier

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The White Dress Symbol Analysis

The White Dress Symbol Icon

At the de Winter costume party, the narrator wears a beautiful white dress at the suggestion of Mrs. Danvers. It’s only when she appears before Maxim himself that the narrator learns, to her horror, that the white dress matches the one that the late Rebecca wore to the last costume party. On the surface of things, the white dress symbolizes Mrs. Danvers’ cruel—and rather petty—manipulations. But it’s also a more subtle symbol of the importance of social and gender roles in Rebecca. The narrator wants to fit in with her new life in Manderley, but as she spends more time there, it dawns on her that the only way to “fit in” is to imitate the actions and habits of her predecessor, Rebecca—in essence, to become Rebecca. Wearing Rebecca’s white dress is, on a symbolic level, the culmination of the narrator’s attempts to adjust to her new life—and proof of why these attempts are utterly misguided.

The White Dress Quotes in Rebecca

The Rebecca quotes below all refer to the symbol of The White Dress. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper edition of Rebecca published in 2006.
Chapter 16 Quotes

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” he asked. His eyes blazed in anger. His face was still ashen white.
I could not move, I went on standing there, my hand on the banister.
“It's the picture,” I said, terrified at his eyes, at his voice. “It's the picture, the one in the gallery.”
There was a long silence. We went on staring at each other. Nobody moved in the hall. I swallowed, my hand moved to my throat. “What is it?” I said. “What have I done?”

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Maximilian de Winter (speaker)
Related Symbols: The White Dress
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

I remember Robert dropping a tray of ices, and the expression of Frith's face when he saw Robert was the culprit and not one of the minions hired for the occasion. I wanted to go to Robert and stand beside him and say “I know how you feel. I understand. I've done worse than you tonight.”

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Frith, Robert
Related Symbols: The White Dress
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

That was why I had come down last night in my blue dress and had not stayed hidden in my room. There was nothing brave or fine about it, it was a wretched tribute to convention. I had not come down for Maxim's sake, or Beatrice's, for the sake of Manderley. I had come down because I did not want the people at the ball to think I had quarreled with Maxim. I didn't want them to go home and say, “Of course you know they don't get on. I hear he's not at all happy.” I had come for my own sake, my own poor personal pride.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Maximilian de Winter, Beatrice Lacy
Related Symbols: The White Dress
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:
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The White Dress Symbol Timeline in Rebecca

The timeline below shows where the symbol The White Dress appears in Rebecca. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
...dancing. Only one day before the ball, the shop in London sends the narrator the white dress , which has turned out beautifully. She decides to keep her costume a secret from... (full context)
Chapter 17
Memory Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
...the narrator’s bedroom, wearing an “Eastern” gown. Beatrice explains the truth to the narrator: the white dress she wore was the same white dress that Rebecca wore to the last costume party.... (full context)
Feminism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Place, Imprisonment, and the Gothic Theme Icon
Power, Control, and Information Theme Icon
...touches the narrator, a clear sign of his discontent. Guests ask the narrator about her white dress , which, thanks to Giles and Frank, everyone thinks was too small for her to... (full context)