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The Veil

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Both Rebecca and Rowena wear veils at various points in the novel to hide their features from the general public. These veils emphasize that both women are modest and shy about their appearance. When Beaumanoir demands that Rebecca take off her veil at her trial for witchcraft, the removal comes across as a terrible violation. She is embarrassed to expose her face to the public, particularly since all the men in the courtroom immediately find her almost overwhelmingly attractive. Beaumanoir's insistence that she take off the veil demonstrates his lack of respect for Rebecca and her beliefs.

At the end of the novel Rowena meets with Rebecca while Rowena is still wearing her bridal veil from her wedding with Ivanhoe. This veil emphasizes her new married state. Rebecca asks Rowena to lift the veil so that she can know whom Ivanhoe has married. She tells Rowena, "Lady [...] the countenance you have deigned to show me will long dwell in my remembrance. [...] Long, long will I remember your features, and bless God that I leave my noble deliverer united with --" (44.67). In this case the lifted veil shows Rebecca the face of Ivanhoe's future – Rowena's face rather than Rebecca's. Rebecca swears that she'll be glad to think of Ivanhoe with Rowena, since her face shows such "gentleness and goodness" (44.67). But honestly, we don't think that knowing what her rival's face looks like is really going to be much comfort to Rebecca in the long run...

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