Every great book has a meaningful title and as meaningful names of its characters. For, they alone can tell the reader the whole story. ‘Rebecca’ is one of such books. Its title bears a lot of meaning and not only because it is the name of one of the characters mentioned in the story, but also because it encompasses the essence of the book and its purpose. What for the names of other characters, their role is to support the main story idea and elaborate on its essence.
At the first glance, Rebecca as a character seems to be a silent one who is given relatively little space in the story and is described by occasional memories, recollections, and conversations of other characters. But at the closer look, especially when examining the dynamics and meanings of other characters’ names in connection to the title of the book, it becomes apparent that this character is not silent at all. More than that. It is one of the narrators. How come?
The answer to this question lies in the conscious-subconscious inter-lacings of the story. This interlacing started when Daphne du Maurier whether consciously or unconsciously removed the name of the main character, Mr de Winer, from the first two chapters of the final manuscript, and then, altered the names of other characters, Mr de Winter’s first name included. The only names that remained as in the original text were Rebecca, Mrs Danvers, and Dr Baker. There is a reason for that and it lies in the meanings of the names. But first, let’s look at the original list of the characters and their names.
It is worth mentioning that initially Daphne du Maurier wanted to have few but well-defined characters and simplicity of style. And indeed, while in Alexandria, she adhered to her plan. The proof of that is her notes in the ‘Rebecca Notes.’
The characters and their names as per ‘Rebecca Notes’ by Daphne du Maurier:
Manderley – a country estate in Cornwall. The most important main character of the whole book, as all of the stories stem out of its secrets and mysteries that are based on the ones related to Menabilly house.
The name ‘Manderley’ can be dissected in the following two ways. The first one: ‘Mander-ley’, and the second: ‘Man-der-ley’. The ‘der’ in the second dissection comes from German and means ‘the’ or can also be linked to the French ‘de’ – ‘of’. The word ‘ley’ has two meanings. The first one describes land as in a piece of land put down to grass. The second refers to the coastal rocks, as it comes from the Old German word ‘ley’, meaning ‘rock’, ‘cliff’, or ‘crag’ that in its turn is derived from the Old Saxon word ‘leia’ and is particularly associated with rock precipices. In the first dissection ‘Man-der-ley’, the ‘Man’ means ‘a man’, and in the second one, ‘Mander-ley’, ‘Mander’ means ‘commander’. Thus, Manderley bears two important meanings: ‘a man of the land’ or ‘Landlord’, and ‘tough commander’ or ‘commander’s rock’.
Henry de Winter (Mr de Winter)– the owner of Manderley
The name ‘Henry’ is derived from the Old German ‘Heimeric’ meaning ‘house ruler’. The surname ‘de Winter’ is made up of the preposition ‘de’: ‘of’ in French or can be also related to ‘der’: ‘the’ in German, and the word ‘Winter’ that is derived from Proto-Germanic ‘wentruz’ meaning ‘winter’. This in turn comes from the Proto-Indo-European ‘wed’, meaning ‘wet’ or from ‘wind’ meaning ‘white’. Thus, the surname ‘de Winter’ means ‘of wet’ or ‘of white’.
Rebecca de Winter (Mrs de Winter) – the first wife of Henry de Winter
The name ‘Rebecca’ originates from the Hebrew language and has four meanings: ‘captivating’, ‘to bind tightly’, ‘knotted cord’, and ‘earth’. In addition, it has some religious connotations and is linked to the Hebrew Bible story of Rebecca and Isaac and their twin sons – Jacob and Esau.
The surname ‘de Winter’ is made up of the preposition ‘de’: ‘of’ in French or can be also related to ‘der’: ‘the’ in German, and the word ‘Winter’ that is derived from Proto-Germanic ‘wentruz’ meaning ‘winter’. This in turn comes from the Proto-Indo-European ‘wed’, meaning ‘wet’ or from ‘wind’ meaning ‘white’. Thus, the surname ‘de Winter’ means ‘of wet’ or ‘of white’.
The nameless narrator – Henry’s second wife, a childless woman whose father was a doctor
Barbara – Henry’s sister
‘Barbara’ is the feminine form of the Greek word ‘barbaros’ meaning ‘strange’ or ‘foreign’, from which the current term barbarian is also derived. In Roman Catholic and Greek orthodox tradition, Saint Barbara was martyred by her father, who was then punished with death by lighting. As such, St. Barbara is a protectress against fire and lightning.
Mrs Danvers – the housekeeper at Manderley
The surname ‘Danvers’ has Norman origin and is a habitational name with fused preposition d(e) - ‘D’Anvers’ – which means someone from Anvers, the French name of the port of Antwerp, Belgium. Thus, the surname ‘Mrs Danvers’ means ‘of the port of Anvers’.
Robert – the old butler at Manderley
The name ‘Robert’ is an Old German name that means ‘bright fame’. It’s taken from the Old German name ‘Hrodebert.’ The name is made up of two elements: ‘Hrod’ which means ‘fame’, and ‘Beraht’, which means ‘bright’.
Major Arthur Gray – the chief constable
The name ‘Arthur’ is derived from the ancient Celtic personal name ‘Arthur’, which in its turn comes from an old Celtic word meaning ‘bear.’ It has been in regular use as a personal name in Britain since the early Middle Age, owing its popularity to the legendary exploits of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table. In many cases, the name ‘Arthur’ is a shortened form of Scottish or Irish ‘McArthur’, the patronymic ‘Mac’ – often being dropped in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries under English influence. Interestingly enough, the diminutive forms of the name include ‘Art’ and ‘Artie’.
The surname ‘Gray’ has Scottish origin and describes a person who has gray hair. In Scotland, the surname ‘Gray’ came from two derivations. As a nickname, it came from the Gaelic word ‘riabhach’, which means ‘gray’. As a habitational name, it is derived from the place named ‘Graye’, in Calvados, which in its turn came from the Gallo-Roman personal name, ‘Gratus’, which means ‘welcome’ or ‘pleasing’. Thus, the name ‘Arthur Gray’ means ‘a welcoming or pleasing bear.’
Paul Astley – the second cousin of Rebecca de Winter
The name ‘Paul’ is a common masculine name in countries with a Christian heritage. The name has existed since Roman times. It derives from the Roman family name ‘Paulus’ or ‘Paullus’, from the Latin adjective meaning ‘small’ or ‘humble’. During the Classic Age it was used to distinguish the minor of two people of the same family bearing the same name.
The surname ‘Astley’ is a habitational name from a place in Warwickshire named Astley and is derived from a combination of the Old English – ‘east’, ‘east’ and ‘leah’, ‘woodland clearing.’ Thus, the name ‘Paul Astley’ means ‘a small east woodland clearing’ or ‘a smaller of the two east woodland clearing.’
Mrs Van Hopper – an American wealthy lady and the employer of the nameless narrator
The surname ‘Van Hopper’ is composed of an article ‘van’ – ‘of’, - referring to the Flanders origin, and ‘Hopper’ referring to a ‘wagon’, which in itself is a reference to the French railway company Wagon-Lits – Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits - known for its on-train catering and sleeping car services, as well as being the historical operator of the Orient-Express. Thus, the surname ‘Mrs Van Hopper’ means ‘of the wagon’ or ‘ of the railways’.
Dr Marsden – a character present at the court hearing
Doctor Baker – a retired doctor living in Hampstead, North London
The meanings of the names of the original list of the characters help establish the subconscious themes that had been ingrained into the initial plot of the book. Told from the subconscious themes’ point of view the story would go as follows. There is a house ruler (Henry) and therefore there is a house (Manderley) that he rules. The ruler used to have a wife (Rebecca) – land, that was linked to the house. He also has a sister (Barbara) who is strange or of a foreign origin or, perhaps, has something strange about her. The wife having an affair with a man, or rather the land (Rebecca), is linked to a smaller woodland clearing (Paul Astley). The connection of the land to a smaller woodland clearing has certain implications to the ruler of the house – a threat of being exposed. The narrator, the second wife of the house ruler, has no name and therefore does not play a crucial role in the described relations, but acts as an observer to the circumstances of the situation. The conflict is also observed by the ‘welcoming and pleasing bear’ (Major Arthur Gray). In addition, the nameless narrator works as a companion to a representative of the railway industry, Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits (Mrs Van Hopper) whom she leaves to get married and come to Manderley.
The subconscious themes of the first draft of the book were also supported by the conscious plot structure and scene descriptions. However, whilst, in the first draft, the original characters, their names, and their relations were more or less clear, this is not quite the case in the final version of the book. In it, it seems that the subconscious themes had taken over, creating a lot of ambiguity.
The seed of ambiguity was planted when Daphne du Maurier removed the name of the main character – Mr de Winter - from the book’s two first chapters, leaving the reader to guess whom the nameless narrator refers to: her companion, her husband, her brother, her father, or her lover? And what are the exact relationships between them all? In addition, the altered names of other characters had brought very specific associations into the story. These, differing from the ones of the original characters’ names associations, opened up doors for different interpretations and secret meanings, resulting in references to more than one character. For, new names provided each character with a shadow ‘twin’, or two. These ‘twins’ generated parallel story lines, sometimes hidden and sometimes more obvious. Due to this, the initial simplicity of style disappeared. Instead, its place took a tightly knotted mystery.
The characters and their names as per the final manuscript of ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier:
Mr de Winter – one of the main characters who encompasses several roles, including the owner of Manderley, Maximilian de Winter, and his grandson, Max de Winter.
The name also appears in the book as Maximilian de Winter, Maxim, and Max de Winter. The name ‘Maximilian’ comes from the Old German. If dissected – ‘Max-im-ilian’ – the name points at its foreign origin, for in such form it contains the following message: ‘Max – I’m alien’ or ‘I’m a foreigner.’ Maximilian de Winter’s origin is also highlighted in the book by the mention of him speaking German: ‘He couldn’t speak a word of English, of course. Maxim went down to him, and found him bleeding like a pig from a scratch on the rocks. He spoke to him in German.’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier) The anagram of the surname ‘Winter’ is ‘Twiner’ which means ‘worker’ and also ‘storyteller’.
Mrs de Winter – one of the main characters who encompasses several roles including the first wife of Maximilian de Winter, the daughter of Maximilian de Winter, and sister of Max de Winter - Rebecca, as well as the wife of Max de Winter.
The name also appears in the book as ‘the first Mrs de Winter’, ‘the late Mrs de Winter’, ‘Rebecca’, and ‘Bee’. ‘Bee’ is a short version of Rebecca but also a short version of the name Beatrice.
Beatrice – a supporting character who encompasses two roles – the sister, and the lover of Maximilian de Winter
The name also appears in the book as ‘Bee’, and ‘Mrs Lacy’. The name ‘Beatrice’ is derived from the French ‘Béatrice’ that in its turn came from the Latin ‘Beatrix’. The meaning of the name is ‘she who makes happy’. The shadow side of the name can be found in the anagram of the surname ‘Lacy’ – ‘Clay’. In this way, ‘Mrs Lacy’ becomes ‘Mrs Clay’.
Giles – a supporting character who encompasses two roles – the husband of Beatrice, the lover of Maximilian de Winter, and the husband of Maximilian de Winter’s sister.
The name also appears in the book as ‘Mr Lacy’. ‘Giles’ comes from Greek and means ‘a small goat.’ The shadow side of the surname, ‘Lacy’ is derived from its anagram – ‘Clay’. In this way, ‘Mr Lacy’ becomes ‘Mr Clay’, the husband of ‘Mrs Clay’.
Roger – a minor silent character who nonetheless plays a certain role in the story, especially in the ‘twin’ characters’ story lines. The character is a son of Mrs Lacy and Mr Lacy as well as Beatrice and Giles. His age varies throughout the story from being a small boy to being a young man who is graduating from Eton. Such difference in age suggests that ‘Roger’ is either a son of two different couples or the storyline of ‘Rebecca’ book covers longer period of time than just 1920s.
The name ‘Roger’ is derived from the Old High German ‘hrotger’ that is made up from ‘hruod’: ‘famous’ and ‘ger’: ‘spear’ the name means ‘famous with the spear’. A slang meaning of the name popular in 1650-1870 is ‘penis’, also as a verb - ‘to copulate with (a woman)’.
Mrs Danvers – a supporting character who encompasses several roles, including the housekeeper at Manderley, who worked for the first Mrs de Winter, and some sort of a relative, possibly distant, who is connected to Beatrice, the lover of Maximilian de Winter, and, at the same time, to Rebecca, the daughter of Maximilian de Winter.
The name also appears in the book as ‘Danny’, short for Danielle. The surname ‘Danvers’ has Norman origin and is a habitational name with fused preposition d(e) - ‘D’Anvers’ – which means someone from Anvers, the French name of the port of Antwerp, Belgium. The shadow side of the character is derived from its anagram - ‘Ravens’, which is a reference to the Mad Hatter’s riddle in the Victorian book ‘Alice’s Adventures in the Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll: ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’ The name ‘Danny’ originates from the Hebrew language and relates to the name Daniel or Danielle, meaning ‘God is my judge’. ‘Danny’ can be both a female and a male name.
Frith – a minor supporting character who has a dual role – the first one is of the old butler at Manderley, and the second one is of the grandfather figure or an Old Master of Manderley.
The name ‘Frith’ comes from German ‘Friede’ – part of the name ‘Fried-rich’, and is root-cognate to ‘friend’ – friend rich or peace rich. In Swedish, one of the two meanings of the word ‘frid’ is ‘the state of no disturbance’ or ‘peace’.
Robert – a minor supporting character playing a role of the young footman under the butler, Frith.
The name appears in the book without variations. ‘Robert’ is an Old German name that means ‘bright fame’. It’s taken from the Old German name ‘Hrodebert.’ The name is made up of two elements: ‘Hrod’ which means ‘fame’, and ‘Beraht’, which means ‘bright’.
Jack Favell – one of the supporting characters who encompasses several roles, including the first cousin of Rebecca, the first cousin of the first Mrs de Winter, the twin brother of Ben, a fool with blue eyes digging shells on the beach near Manderley, and the brother of Beatrice, the lover of Maximilian de Winter.
The name also appears in the book as ‘Mr Favell’, ‘Mr Jack’, and simply ‘Favell. ‘The surname ‘Favell’ is derived from the Old French word ‘fauve’, which means ‘fallow-coloured’ or the one who is tawny or has a dusky complexion. Another variation is the Old French word ‘favel’ meaning ‘story’ or ‘tale’. The meaning grew from the definition of a sly or cunning horse in a number of animal tales in popular medieval literature. Later, it would describe someone who was devious or quick-witted.
Mr Crawley – a supporting character who encompasses several roles, including the agent of Maximilian de Winter, a close friend and the agent of Max de Winter, and a friend of the narrator(s).
The name also appears in the book as ‘Frank Crawley’, ‘Crawley’, and ‘Frank.’ ‘Frank’ is a person from Francia – The Kingdom of Franks, - later becoming France, but, at some point, with its Eastern part belonging to the German Holy Roman Empire. The surname ‘Crawley’ is a habitational one. It comes from the Old English ‘crawe’ consisting of ‘crow’ and ‘leah’ and meaning ‘woodland clearing.’ The surname also has the send source. It is an Anglicization of the Gaelic ‘O’Cruadhlaoich’ – descendent of Cruadlaoch, a personal name composed of the elements ‘cruadh’, hardey, and ‘lgoch’, hero. In other words, ‘a hardy hero.’
Colonel Julyan – a supporting character who encompasses two roles, including an official, a magistrate for Kerrith, and a friend of the de Winter family.
The name also appears in the book as ‘Julyan’ without the colonel. The name ‘Julyan’ is an ancient Anglo-Saxon form of the Latin name ‘Julian’, which was both masculine and feminine in the Old English. The name is derived from the Roman cognomen ‘Julianus.’ ‘Julyan’ means ‘of the family of the Julii’ and dedicated to Jupiter/Jove – from Latin ‘lovilius’.
Mrs Van Hopper – a supporting character who is an archetype, encompassing American women of certain class and status of the end-of-nineteenth beginning-of-twentieth centuries. throughout the story the character appears in different time frames and bears signs of the time she represents. Perhaps that is why the appearance of this character is a visual amalgam of different epochs: ‘She would precede me in to lunch, her short body ill-balanced upon tottering, high heels, her fussy, frilly blouse a compliment to her large bosom and swinging hips, her new hat pierced with a monster quill aslant upon her head, exposing a wide expanse of forehead bare as a schoolboy’s knee. One hand earned a gigantic bag, the kind that holds passports, engagement diaries, and bridge scores, while the other hand toyed with that inevitable lorgnette, the enemy to other people’s privacy.’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier)
The name appears in the book only as ‘Mrs Van Hopper’ without variations, but has two meanings that suggests at least two different Mrs Van Hoppers. The first meaning is composed of an article ‘van’ – ‘of’, - referring to the Flanders origin, and ‘Hopper’ referring to a ‘wagon’, which in itself is a reference to the French railway company Wagon-Lits – Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits - known for its on-train catering and sleeping car services, as well as being the historical operator of the Orient-Express: ‘Tomorrow evening I should be in the train, holding her jewel case and her rug, like a maid, and she in that monstrous new hat with the single quill, dwarfed in her fur-coat, sitting opposite me in the wagon-lit.’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier) This meaning of the surname ‘Van Hopper’ suggests a link to the wealthy Dutch families of the United States who made their fortunes investing in railway roads and things associated with them.
The second meaning of ‘Hopper’ refers to the plant – hops. In farming, the hopper is a person who collects hops. Thus, the second meaning of the surname is ‘of hopper’. Comparing to the wagon-lit connotation and association it suggests a more common person, at least in her behaviour and attitudes. The shadow meaning of this connotation related to the hops is derived from its meaning in the secret language of flowers - ‘injustice’.
Ben – a minor supporting character who encompasses several roles, including a fool digging shells on the beach, a half-witted twin brother of Jack Favell, a brother of Beatrice, the lover of Maximilian de Winter, and a son of the tenants of Maximilian de Winter renting a cottage situated on his land.
The name appears in the book only as ‘Ben’, without variations. However, the character is referred to by the following descriptions: ‘poor devil’, ‘his old father used to be one of the keepers’, ‘the poor man with the idiot’s eyes’, ‘a nice fellow’, ‘poor wretch’, ‘potty’, ‘idiot’, ‘the son of one of our tenants’.
‘Ben’ is of Hebrew origin and means ‘son’. As a short form of the names ‘Benedict’ and ‘Benjamin’ it also has the following meanings ‘blessed’, ‘good speaker’ (Benedict), and ‘child of good fortune’, ‘son of the right hand’ (Benjamin).
Doctor Philips – a family doctor
Doctor Baker - a retired doctor living in Hampstead, North London
Captain Searle – the harbourmaster of Kerrith
Alice – a house maid at Manderley, at some point also a personal maid of the narrator
Clarice – a personal maid of the narrator
Maud – an under-house maid
Norah – a parlour maid at Gran’s house
The nameless narrator(s) – the narrating ‘hues’ reveal the following personages - the second wife of Maximilian de Winter – Celia, the daughter of Maximilian de Winter – Rebecca, the illegitimate son of Maximilian de Winter – Max, and the wife of Max – Jeanne or Joan. The stories of the narrators relate to two decades - 1910s and 1920s.
And finally, ‘Rebecca’ - the one of the three characters whose names had not been changed. Having multiple meanings, ‘Rebecca’ supports different story lines of the shadow characters, but most importantly the name personifies Daphne du Maurier’s House of Secrets, – Menabilly turned Manderley, - giving it an identity of its own and creating a ‘she’ image that encompasses female inhabitants of Manderley – wives, sisters, daughters, and lovers.
The name ‘Rebecca’ originates from the Hebrew language and has four meanings: ‘captivating’, ‘to bind tightly’, ‘knotted cord’, and ‘earth’. In addition, it has some religious connotations and is linked to the Hebrew Bible story of Rebecca and Isaac and their twin sons – Jacob and Esau. The story involves such themes as power struggles and deception linked to it.
Each of the four meanings of the name ‘Rebecca’ has its significance in relation to the house, Manderley, its female inhabitants, and their secrets and stories.
The first meaning of the name - 'captivating' - refers to the mysteries of the house that attract, captivate, and bewitch. It also describes the beauty of Manderley and its surroundings, as well as the enchantment it produces and the effect it has on the narrator(s) and the inhabitants, especially the male ones: ‘She had beauty that endured, and a smile that was not forgotten. Somewhere her voice still lingered, and the memory of her words. There were places she had visited, and things that she had touched.’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier) This description of an image related to Rebecca can apply to any of the female inhabitants of Manderley – to the first wife of Maximilian de Winter, to his daughter, to his sister, and to his lover.
The magic and alluring beauty of Manderley and the women associated with it create a ‘wonderland’ full of riddles and puzzles similar to the Victorian book ‘The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll. Coincidently or not, the references to the book and in particular to the main character of it can be found in the ‘Rebecca’ text. For example, as a name of the house maid – Alice, or the remark made by Maximilian de Winter: ‘Alice-in-Wonderland. That was a good idea of mine. Have you bought your sash and your hair-ribbon yet?’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier)
The second meaning – ‘to bind tightly’ - relates to bonds that Manderley inhabitants have with the house and with one another, including family ties, marriage ties, homeland ties, and property ties. The absence of ties is also a bond, as in the case of Max de Winter and one of the narrators, his future wife. Both have lost their close relatives and are ‘alone in the world’: ’You know,’ he [Max de Winter] said, ‘we’ve got a bond in common, you and I. We are both alone in the world.’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier)
The property ties expressed in the estate being entailed, passing from one generation to the next one through male heirs: ‘The property’s entailed. You would like an heir, wouldn’t you, for your beloved Manderley? You would enjoy it, wouldn’t you, seeing my son lying in his pram under the chestnut tree, playing leap-frog on the lawn, catching butterflies in the Happy Valley?’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier)
The homeland ties are touched upon in the second chapter of the book in connection with the narrator. She/he experiences as a certain nostalgia while reading the old copies of the Field magazine: ‘Sometimes old copies of the Field come my way, and I am transported from this indifferent island to the realities of an English spring. I read of chalk streams, of the mayfly, of sorrel growing in green meadows, of rooks circling above the woods as they used to do at Manderley. The smell of wet earth comes to me from those thumbed and tattered pages, the sour tang of moorland peat, the feel of soggy moss spattered white in places by a heron’s droppings.’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier)
The third meaning – ‘knotted cord’ – bears two connotations. Both applicable to Manderley estate, in particular to the land, and the inhabitants of the house. The first connotations of the ‘knotted cord’ relates to land. The ‘knotted cord’ - a length of cord with knots tied at regular intervals - was an ancient surveyor’s tool for measuring distance and land. It dates back to ancient Egypt. It was used by Egyptian royal surveyors to measure out the sides of fields. The connotation draws attention to centuries of the land ownership and the size of the estate. It also refers to its age. In England, the ownership of the land used to be the prerogative of the titled gentry of which the owners of Menabilly as well as the fictional owner of Manderley, Maximilian de Winter, are representatives.
The second connotation of the ‘knotted cord’ relates to a knot in the baby’s umbilical cord. A woman who carries identical twins is more prone to having a pregnancy with a cord knot. This connotation is linked to the ‘twin’ characters and their parallel story lines expressed in the book. Apart from the ‘twin’ characters, in the book’s text there can be found hints at twins as members of the same family. Such hints are the common facial features and the blue eyes of Jack Favell, the first cousin of Rebecca, and Ben, a man the narrator meets on the beach.
The fourth meaning of the name ‘Rebecca’ – ‘earth’ or ‘soil’ – represents the nature i.e. flora and fauna of the Manderley estate, which had been inspired by Menabilly and its gardens that were created by ‘the Victorian garden lovers with their rare plants and their shrubs’. (from ‘The House of Secrets’, ‘Rebecca Notebook’, Daphne du Maurier) In particular, the text of ‘Rebecca’ contains mentions of flowers and plants in certain scenes where they bear secret meanings which are derived from the secret language of flowers or floriography that was very popular during the Victorian times. These floral mentions are one of the storytelling techniques that is a part of the narrating ‘hues’ that represents one of the storytellers.
Apart from the meanings and connotations derived from the name ‘Rebecca’ also has descriptive characteristics that are associated with the personality of the one who is carrying the name. These characteristics are useful in describing an image of the house as of a living being. The house then turns into a female personality woven out of thoughts and desires of its owners and inhabitants and encompassed in the name ‘Rebecca’.
On the positive side, the name ‘Rebecca’ describes a woman who is open about her feelings, is intelligent, straightforward, full of life, driven, fun loving, and adventurous: ‘Yes, she was a very lovely creature. So full of life.’ […] ‘She had an amazing gift, Rebecca I mean, of being attractive to people; men, women, children, dogs…’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier) She prefers few but well-chosen and reliable friends, and can appear suspicious of others. Hence the confident and friend, Mrs Danvers: ‘‘Isn’t Mrs Danvers the house-keeper?' said Colonel Jalyan. ‘She was also Rebecca’s personal friend,’ said Favell. ‘She was with her for years before she married and practically brought her up.’’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier) And finally, Rebecca never lies.
On the negative side, the personality type can be deceitfulness, secretive, omitting or distorting truth. She/he can also be dull, ignorant, and lack initiative. Interestingly enough, this duality describes at least three female characters of the book – Rebecca, Beatrice, and the narrator(s).
Rebecca is adventurous, fun loving, free spirited and independent yet suspicious and secretive. Beatrice fun loving, and independent yet deceitful. The narrator(s), on the one hand, gives an impression of dull, in many ways ignorant, and non-dynamic person yet somewhat adventurous. And on the other, she sounds confident and straightforward. This kind of dual associations are also applicable to two types of women, representing two cultures - the American women and the English women of certain status and of certain historical period, especially in connection to the England’s title gentry.
‘The American girl was animated. She moved. She asserted herself. She liked to have fun. The Englishman was always amazed, according to Oscar Wild, at her ‘extraordinary vivacity, her electrical quickness of repartee, her inexhaustible store of curious catchwords.’ The American girl enjoyed a freedom of movement and association reserved in Europe solely for married women. She was neither as sheltered nor as ignored as the English girl, who had always to concede first place to her noble brother. While American girls were getting French lessons and history lessons and music lessons from the best possible tutors, the English girl was being educated by ‘a more or less incompetent governess’ in the third-floor schoolroom of the country seat. While the American girl was tripping through the capitals of Europe, looking at pictures, listening to lectures examining monument of civilization, the English girl was traveling between the nursery and the stable.’ (‘To Marry an English Lord’ by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace)
The traits of the English girl is highlighted from time to time by the narrator herself, mainly when it comes to her appearance and inexperience: ‘I thought of my clumsy hands and feet and the slope of my shoulders,’ as well as by Maximilian de Winter who points out at the narrator’s ignorance: ‘You are almost as ignorant as Mrs Van Hopper, and just as, unintelligent.’ (‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier) The traits of the American girl are expressed in the narrator’s inexperience with the English system of managing the servants in the estate houses, for the American heiresses back home did not have to worry about it, at least not in the same way as their English female colleagues did.
As the title for a book, ‘Rebecca’ is a great choice, for the name encompasses all the themes that are touched upon in the story. However, since in ‘Rebecca’s’ plot there is so much of the collective unconscious that had not been consciously edited or sorted out, the book produces a somewhat unfinished impression of which Daphne du Maurier knew and even pointed it out to her publisher. But, surprising as it might sound, in its weakness lies its strength, since each reader can dig in and pick up threads of her/his own story. The ones that attract them most. Perhaps that is the reason why the book became so popular.