From the beginning of the novel, when our nameless character is swept off her feet by the dark, mysterious Maximiliam de Winter, I feel the overwhelming urge to hurl a paperweight at this naïve, hapless little walking wound.
Yes, I do. Don’t judge me.
We already know that man is not a vehicle of freedom for women. Emma Bovary. Anna Karenina. Ellen Olenska. Edna Pontellier. I could go on…
And when the young Ms. De Winter arrives at Manderly and immediately feels oppressed by the shadow of Rebecca, Max’s beautiful deceased wife, she draws further into her little cocoon.
I’d love to shake her by the shoulders and talk some Phil McGraw sense to her.
“Hello! Never measure yourself using someone else’s yardstick!” And when she lets herself be bullied by the cruel Ms. Danvers, maybe a cold drink thrown in her face would jolt her out of that timidity.
I might be going through a rage-a-holic phase.
Another reason this novel ticks me off (even though I really, really love it) is that it promotes woman on woman hate. Why do we have to have the two polar feminine opposites? Must we perpetuate this dichotomy of the virginal innocent and the conniving slut? Must we?
Back to Ms. De Winter. I like her in the beginning of the novel. I sympathize with her. I can feel her pain of being overshadowed by the enigmatic creature she could never possibly live up to. But I grow less and less enamored with her as she slowly changes into someone else in order to secure the affection for a man that–by any definition–is difficult to read.
I may be re-sprouting (what I affectionately refer to as) my Feminazi wings.
And you may not see any of this as you let yourself be drawn into Daphne du Maurier’s lush, gothic tale. But as Edmund Wilson said, “No two persons ever read the same book.”