Marriage and… murder!?

15 Mar

Rebecca by Daphne du Mouriner

A few weeks ago, I finished reading this book, and have been thinking about it ever since:

Dubbed as a romance, it’s far from being one. The first few chapters are flattering, but once you realize that they got married, as the story moves along, you ask yourself: was she infatuated or was she playing the innocent gold digger? Does he love her and if not, why did he marry her? Does she make him forget his former wife, the famous Rebecca? She goes through the insecurity of a new bride whose husband, almost twice her age, doesn’t lavish attention and is oft times aloof. Later, when the truth is told, there is a union between the two that was not there before: she suddenly grows up and as he comments to her, she looses the young lost look forever. We see him care more, but is it because he needs similar attention now? They blend in for once as a couple, ironically: their future is bleak as the accusations against him grow stronger by the moment.
It’s all about appearances: before Rebecca and her husband appeared to be the perfect couple, happily married with a big house, gardens, parties and money to spare. No love was lost between them. She dies, or so we think, he gets married again. They’ve got the appearance of a couple weighed down by the differences between them: age, station, likes etc. She is definitely too young for him, and he is definitely not over his wife’s death. Then the cold hard truth is told. Ouch. It pains. Now we excuse his attitude, we understand his pacing up and down. We tell her: its time to help him. And help she does. Once she shares his secret, she is bolder and can endure visitors, even the mighty Mrs. Danvers. It’s as though they discover that they were married five months later and begin to love.

Can they afford to lose the appearance of a happily married couple now that they cannot be in their home again?

The ending is as mysterious as ever. What happened to Jack Favell and his liaison with Mrs. Danvers? What were they up to? Did Max’s grandmother die in the end? What happened to Manderley? Is it Robert’s home now, or is Frank faithfully taking care of the estate, the same as ever? Did the bride, what’s her name again, get children? Did they go abroad and buy a country house? Did Frank go for a visit, playing with the children in the garden?

Maybe it’s too much to ask from a single book.

What it definitely makes us see is how the characters deal with their “demons within”. Rebecca chooses to use everybody, including her husband, to secure her whimsical life. Max chooses to comply, but soon discovers that he cannot live like that forever, upon which he takes her life into his hands. The torment aggravates, instead of subsiding. He sort of breathes fresh air when he meets his future wife. She manages to distract him enough with her innocence for him to propose. They do get married. The air is definitely fresher, although expectant, before a storm. The storm does come, when he tells her the truth and he must face up to the endless inquiries and the uncertainty of their future together.

The author definitely teaches us to look beyond face value. Max and Rebecca were the perfect couple; they had everything, were envied by everyone. What they lacked was peace, interior peace. Max and his new wife, after the discovery lack everything strictly speaking, but resign themselves to the working of destiny, a feat they are able to accomplish because of their interior peace. The author, as a result, makes a bargain: she lets him be lucky, and is able to live again. All the rest: Manderley, children, Frank’s visit etc are superfluous. Max has dealt with his demons; that’s all that matters. We hope to learn the lesson.

We only have one question: can that peace really last now that Max has a crime on his hands (and on his conscience) and his wife is some sort of an accomplice?

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