The Secrets of Manderley: Rebecca



Gothic fiction over the last two hundred years has given us characters such as Dracula and Frankenstein who have passed into popular culture and taken on an almost mythic dimension.1 Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier’s most famous character, has achieved a similar status. Influenced by Jane Eyre (Angela Carter goes so far as to describe Rebecca as a book that ‘shamelessly reduplicated the plot’ of Charlotte Brontë’s novel2), du Maurier’s best-seller, published in 1938, has itself become a strong influence on women’s romantic fiction and Female Gothic writing. As Joanna Russ notes in her discussion of popular or ‘drugstore’ Female Gothic fiction: ‘The Modern Gothics resemble…a crossbreed of Jane Eyre and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and most of them advertise themselves as “in the Du Maurier tradition”, “in the Gothic tradition of Rebecca”, and so on’.3 The first sentence of Rebecca, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’, a poetic evocation of place, has become one of the most famous opening lines in English fiction.4 What is it, then, that gives Rebecca her mythic status and Manderley that enduring place in the twentieth-century imagination?


Sexual Identity Romantic Love Patriarchal Society Adult Female Sexuality Country House 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    See William Patrick Day, In the Circles of Fear and Desire: A Study of Gothic Fantasy (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1985) p. 3.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    David Punter, The Literature of Terror, Volume 2 (Second edition) (London and New York: Longman, 1996) p. 189.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    Margaret Forster, Daphne du Maurier (London: Chatto and Windus, 1993) p. 137.Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    Shoshana Felman, What does a Woman Want?: Reading and Sexual Difference (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993) p. 36.Google Scholar
  5. 21.
    Elisabeth Bronfen, Over her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992) p. 150.Google Scholar
  6. 27.
    Harriet Hawkins, Classics and Trash: Traditions and Taboos in High Literature and Popular Modern Genres (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990) p. 144.Google Scholar
  7. 36.
    See Ernest Jones, ‘On the Vampire’ in Christopher Frayling, Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (1991; London: Faber and Faber, 1992) p. 409.Google Scholar
  8. 38.
    Christopher Frayling, Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (London: Faber & Faber, 1992) pp. 68 and 71–2.Google Scholar
  9. 44.
    Martyn Shallcross, The Private World of Daphne du Maurier (1991; London: Robson Books, 1993) pp. 69–70.Google Scholar
  10. 51.
    Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York and London: Routledge, 1990) p. 47. See also pp. 46–54.Google Scholar

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© Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik 1998

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