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by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca Theme of Death

The main characters in Rebecca are all either dead, look dead, or are dangerously close to death. In fact, the title character, Rebecca, is dead before the story even begins. Sure there's murder involved (Maxim killed his wife, after all), but death by natural causes is also a factor: Rebecca was terminally ill with a cancerous growth when she died. So these characters prefer a murder to a natural death? In any case, one of the most compelling things about Rebecca is that it reeks of a haunted house/ghost story, without actually being one. Rebecca never comes back to life or appears as a ghost (right?); but the ghost of Rebecca is created in the minds of the living people who are obsessed with her existence and her death.

Questions About Death

  1. Is Manderley haunted by Rebecca? Or is it just in the imaginations of the living characters? How can you tell?
  2. Why does Mrs. Danvers mourn Rebecca's death so deeply?
  3. How does the discovery that Rebecca was terminally ill before she died impact the way her death is seen by others?
  4. Mrs. Danvers kind of looks like she's dead? Other than "ew, gross," what's the story there?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The characters in Rebecca aren't afraid of dying. In fact, they'd prefer death to a shameful life.

The mothers of Maxim, Rebecca, and Mrs. de Winter are all deceased. This is clearly central to understanding their strange relationships.

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