terça-feira, dezembro 19, 2017

Growth and Disillusionment: "Rebecca" by Dauphne du Maurier

Rebecca is, of course, indebted to Jane Eyre in all sorts of consciously thematic and perhaps unconsciously associative ways, but the book has always maintained its own peculiar identity which puts it out of the category of mere imitation or 'tribute' fiction. Most important is du Maurier's tone, or rather that which she gives her own 'Jane': where Bronte's heroine is boldly certain and declarative, the 'I' who narrates Rebecca is self-effacing and habitually deferential, made clear by the singular device (which is also a dark joke) of keeping herself nameless throughout. The namelessness itself may trip readers into thinking that this will be an example of an unreliable narrative; but there is the important and almost never commented upon device of those first introductory chapters - a device unused in Jane Eyre, which proceeds in strict linear fashion - before the 'flashback' which takes up the rest of the story. This is no attempt to muddy the narratorial waters, much less to complicate the reader's point of view; rather, it is the second Mrs. de Winter's open declaration that the story of her own growth and disillusionment, while told from her own present-day understanding, must be gone through step by step from the moment she entered it several years before. And, fascinatingly, while she is continually kept in the dark about Rebecca herself, nothing we eventually discover about this apparent enigma contradicts what we have known from the beginning - the picture of Rebecca's actions is deepened and complicated, but not contradicted or confused. For instance, Maxim's confession at the end is entirely (if berserkly) consonant with what everyone else in the novel has been telling his new wife about his 'adoration' of Rebecca all along, and this is reinforced by another key element of the book that, as with the significance of the opening chapters, is often taken for granted. The narrator's own marriage with Maxim goes through multiple stages from unquestioning adoration to furious hurt, and at the end (which, of course, we've read first) she has become a mixture of mother, wife, and faithful retainer. The 'flashback' is the story of how they got there, as well as boosting belief in the seemingly sinister earlier marriage. And in none of this is there the intention, self-declared by the narrator, or implied by the author, that the heroine is unreliable in what she tells us: there are discoveries that flesh out previously more vague interpretations, but no reversals, and the narrator's framing of the story puts you on notice that she is very much in control of it.

2 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

Do you think De Maurier in any way wrote this as a backlash against Jane Eyre?
I haven't read this yet but going from your description, it seems like the redemption that goes on in Eyre is not only gone from this story, but written like its opposite.

Manuel Antão disse...

There's a very curious intertextuality at play here which is very interesting. It's not at all clear how much is a direct consequence of one work in opposition to the other work. Food for thought. That's the beauty of literature.