Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier (Anglia)

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: An In-Depth Analysis and Guide

Rebecca is a timeless classic written by British author Daphne du Maurier in 1938. It is a gothic novel that has captivated readers for generations, with its unforgettable characters, setting, and plot. In this article, we will delve deeper into the different components that make Rebecca a masterpiece. Discover more about the author, the novel’s iconic characters, themes, symbolism, and adaptations.

Table of Contents

  1. About the Author: Daphne du Maurier
  2. Plot Summary
  3. Character Analysis
  4. Themes and Motifs
  5. Symbolism
  6. Adaptations and Influence
  7. External Resources

About the Author: Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier was born on May 13, 1907, in London, England into a family with a strong creative heritage. Her father, Sir Gerald du Maurier, was a well-known actor and manager, while her grandfather, George du Maurier, was a famous author and illustrator. Daphne du Maurier’s work predominantly centered around romance and mystery with strong gothic undertones.

Despite the mixed reviews Rebecca received upon its release, it became her most famous and enduring work. Many other books followed, including Jamaica Inn, My Cousin Rachel, and The Birds. Many of these novels and short stories have been adapted for film, stage, and television. Daphne du Maurier passed away on April 19, 1989.

Plot Summary

Rebecca is a classic story of love, secrets, and psychological intrigue. The story is narrated by a young woman, whose name is not revealed, and begins in glamorous Monte Carlo, where she works as the companion of a wealthy American socialite named Mrs. Van Hopper.

While in Monte Carlo, the narrator meets the enigmatic Maxim de Winter, a wealthy widower whose beautiful and mysterious late wife, Rebecca, perished in a tragic boating accident. The narrator and Maxim marry quickly, and he brings her home to his seaside estate, Manderley.

At Manderley, the narrator learns more about Rebecca’s insidious hold on the household, with the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, still loyal to the deceased Rebecca. The narrator’s insecurity grows, as she tries to find her place at Manderley and solve the mystery of what happened to Rebecca.

As the truth is uncovered, the narrator is forced to reevaluate everything she knows about herself, her husband, and the woman whose legacy still haunts them.

Character Analysis

The unnamed narrator

The second Mrs. de Winter, who remains unnamed throughout the novel, serves as the story’s protagonist. She is an introverted, naive young woman, inexperienced in matters of love and family. Her entire life has been consumed by her work as a companion to wealthy women like Mrs. Van Hopper. She marries Maxim de Winter after a whirlwind romance, excited by the prospect of a new life with him.

Her insecurities are exacerbated by the overbearing presence of Rebecca and the formidable Mrs. Danvers. The narrator becomes obsessed with the idea of never living up to Rebecca’s legacy, which negatively affects her relationship with Maxim. As the story progresses, we witness her growth in self-confidence through love and learning the truth about Rebecca.

Maxim de Winter

Maximillian "Maxim" de Winter is the wealthy owner of the Manderley estate. A refined and brooding man, his tragic past haunts him long after Rebecca’s death. Although he loves his new wife, the guilt surrounding his secret causes him to be distant and elusive.

As the story unfolds, Maxim becomes a more complex character. Despite the revelation of his disturbing secret, the narrator still loves him, understanding his flawed nature.


Even though Rebecca is deceased before the novel begins, she acts as an undeniable presence throughout the story. She was a beautiful, charismatic, and dominating force while alive, leaving behind an unforgettable legacy at Manderley. Rebecca’s memory is a source of anguish for Maxim and the reason behind Mrs. Danvers’ unwavering loyalty.

Mrs. Danvers

Mrs. Danvers is the sinister, manipulative housekeeper of Manderley. Her loyalty to Rebecca is obsessive, and she actively resents the second Mrs. de Winter, constantly undermining her authority and confidence. Mrs. Danvers is a complex character, embodying both maternal and malevolent traits.

Themes and Motifs


A central theme in Rebecca is the search for identity. The unnamed narrator struggles to find her place in a world dominated by Rebecca’s memory. She is concerned with fitting in and meeting the expectations attached to her new role, attempting to model herself after Rebecca, only to realize her own uniqueness.

Jealousy and Obsession

The themes of jealousy and obsession play significant roles in the novel. The narrator’s jealousy of Rebecca’s allure drives her obsession with Rebecca’s life. Mrs. Danvers’ pathological fixation on Rebecca and her jealousy over Maxim’s new marriage further fuel this theme.

Social Class

The novel explores the idea of fitting into a higher social class. The unnamed narrator comes from a modest background, and her experiences at Manderley highlight how difficult it can be for an outsider to assimilate into a world of opulence and tradition.


Rebecca is filled with symbolic elements that work together to create a vivid story. Some crucial symbols in the novel include:

  • Manderley: The estate itself is a symbol of wealth, tradition, and the inescapable past. It is a beautiful but oppressive environment that impacts the characters and their lives.
  • The sea: The sea represents both tranquility and danger, as it serves as a resting place for Rebecca’s body and a reminder of her untimely demise.
  • The blood-stained nightgown: This symbolizes the narrator’s fear and realization that Rebecca’s influence will never fade, even if her true nature is uncovered.

Adaptations and Influence

Rebecca has been adapted numerous times for the screen and stage. One of the most successful adaptations is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film, which starred Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. In 2020, a new film adaptation was released, directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Kristin Scott Thomas. Additionally, the novel has spawned spin-offs, sequels, and even a musical.

External Resources

For further reading and analysis of Rebecca, consult the following resources:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier remains an enduring tale of love, mystery, and the complexities of the human psyche. Its legacy and influence cement it as a crucial work in 20th-century literature.