Study Guide

Rebecca Genre

By Daphne du Maurier


Family Drama; Coming-of-Age; Psychological Thriller and Suspense; Horror and Gothic Fiction; and many, many more

That's a lot of genres, we know. But guess what? We didn't even list them all. How about romance? Mystery? Can you think of any others? The fact that Rebecca fits pretty snugly into to many genres proves our point from "Why Should I Care?": there's something in it for everyone. So let's take a look at a few of the most obvious genres.

Unhappily Married

Rebecca explores the darker side of married life, placing it in the category of family drama. It looks at the lengths that some people will go to make a marriage look successful, even when it's a complete failure in reality. In the case of Rebecca, hidden marital problems result in tragedy and even in murder.

Marriage is also explored from a romantic perspective. Our narrator, known only as Mrs. de Winter, is twenty-one, shy and inexperienced when she meets the wealthy, dashing (and creepy) Maxim de Winter, who is about twenty years older than her. This is highly romantic stuff, your classic Cinderella style story where a rich and handsome prince sweeps a penniless servant girl off her feet and gives her a life of wealth and privilege.
But, unlike in Cinderella stories, there's a Bluebeard style catch – the prince is also a wife-killer. Unlike in Bluebeard,the young wife in Rebecca becomes her husband's willing accomplice when she learns the truth. She stands by her husband and participates in the cover-up of the murder of his first wife, Rebecca. The shared secrets even spice up the romance. (How morbid!)

Growing Up at Manderley

All of this madness actually leads to a rather intense coming-of-age for Mrs. de Winter, as Maxim himself notes. He says:
"It's gone for ever, that funny, young, lost look that I loved. It won't come back again. I killed that too, when I told you about Rebecca... It's gone, in twenty-four hours. You are so much older..." (21.219)
Mrs. de Winter's coming-of-age is shown as a loss of innocence, and a revelation of what really matters to her: being Mrs. de Winter, believing that Maxim loves her and hates Rebecca. She goes from innocent, paid companion to scheming, wealthy upper crust lady in a matter of months.

It's All in Her Head

Our narrator's vivid imagination combined with her descriptions of the machinations of characters like Maxim and Mrs. Danvers make this a highly psychological novel. The mystery and suspense is as much about trying to figure out what makes these characters tick and what they'll do next, as it is about trying to figure out Rebecca. The fact that the whole story takes place in the mind (memory) of our narrator only increases this psychological thrill of it all.

The Horror!

Most readers will recognize Rebecca as a gothic horror story, complete with madness, creepy castle, villains, dead bodies, live characters who look like the walking dead, and a dead woman who isn't exactly a ghost, but whose presence in life was so strong that she seems like one. So, dig in to this twisted tale – it's sure to keep you turning the pages well into the night.