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by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca Theme of Justice and Judgment

This might just be Rebecca's most controversial theme. It's not often that a murder evades the arms of punishment and justice in a fictional narrative. The Production Code Administration of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America was afraid that Maxim getting to keep the girl and stay out of the slammer might send the wrong message to moviegoers (source). This is why Rebecca dies accidentally in a scuffle with Maxim in Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 classic. Um… that kind of changes everything, don't you think? This change does away with the extremely complex interrogations of justice and judgment Rebecca has to offer. The novel asks us, the readers, what should Maxim's punishment be? What goals would we want to achieve through his sentence? Deterring others? Reforming Maxim? Taking his life? Is it possible that the most just and fitting punishment is the one the novel gives him: the loss of his true love, Manderley?

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. How might jealousy influence Maxim's judgment? Mrs. Danvers'? Mrs. de Winter's?
  2. Does Maxim really get away with his crime, or does he receive a punishment worse than what the legal system could bestow on him?
  3. Does Mrs. de Winter commit any crimes?
  4. Is Mrs. de Winter a good judge of character?
  5. Does Maxim's social status place him above judgment?
  6. Will Maxim feel free to kill again if the urge strikes?

Chew on This

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

Maxim's escape from official justice denies him the chance to atone for his crime.

The destruction of Manderley hurts Maxim more than any punishment available under the law.

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