Rebecca opens with the famous line, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" (1.1).
(We already have a dorky side note for you: that line is written in iambic hexameter. It's poetic! Check out our "Writing Style" section for more on that.)
Okay, so this is what our narrator dreams: she's at Manderley, but the gate leading into the property is locked.
She's dreaming, though, so that's no obstacle: she's able to go through the gate and up the driveway.
Things have changed; the trees and plants have taken over the driveway. The rhododendrons are fifty feet high now. Before, everything was completely manicured. Now it's all wild.
She's afraid the house isn't there, but, full of fear and on the verge of tears, she sees it.
Our narrator can see the ocean beyond the house, shining and still under the moon.
All kinds of flowers and plants have taken over the house, still dreaming, she is able to go onto the porch. She feels like the house is alive, just like it used to be. Very sweet.
She sees lights on and curtains blowing in the breeze. She imagines going into the library and finding things as they used to be.
Suddenly, a cloud comes across the moon and then vanishes. The lights in the house go out, and she's sees it's not alive after all – it isn't haunted and can't tell tales of the past.
She thinks that the house is a "sepulchre" (1.12), or a tomb. This is starting to sound more like a nightmare than a dream
When she's awake, our narrator thinks of Manderley as it used to be, a beautiful place where nature and the ocean provided happiness. Memories of Manderley like that aren't painful, she decides in her dream.
In the present, she is actually very far from Manderley, in a hotel in another country.
Soon she'll wake up to the bright sun, a contrast to the dark and moonlit dream.
She and the person she's with will be calm, more than they ever were at Manderley.
They won't talk about Manderley, and she won't tell the person she's with about her dream.
This is because Manderley doesn't belong to them anymore. It doesn't even exist. (Suspense alert!)