The Unnamed Heroine

This protagonist has no name – she’s the unnamed heroine of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca – an old old book.

Rebecca is the story of 42 year old Maximillian de Winter who bumps into a girl half his age, a paid companion to the the snobbish gossip Mrs Van Hooper. A quick marriage lands her at Maxim’s family home – Manderley. Not only does this new Mrs de Winter have to contend with the demands of running a large establishment but also with the ghost of Maxim’s dead ex-wife Rebecca who seemed to have been universally loved and admired.

But first, the mystery of her name or rather the lack of it.

People have often speculated why Du Maurier never came up with a name for her heroine. She couldn’t have forgotten about it, considering there are specific mentions of it at a number of places in the book. Most prominently, Maxim remarks, “you have a very lovely and unusual name” and later, “…it becomes you as well as it became your father.” Implying that perhaps she shared the name with him.

Some believe du Maurier meant to call her ‘Daphne’ but was worried that people would draw too many parallels between the book and her real life and chickened out. Oh and there were plenty of parallels. Her real life husband had once been engaged to glamorous dark haired lady and du Maurier always suspected he was attracted to her still. That’s where she arrived upon the theme of her novel – jealousy – which became its starting point.

It’s far more likely that du Maurier couldn’t settle on a unisex name that was ‘lovely and unusual’ enough. An unusual decision for sure. I am not a writer but had I been one I assume I would begin with a name before building up a character and giving it traits and deciding her fate.

The new Mrs de Winter..

…is shy and naive and easily embarrassed. There is something lovable and sweet about her, something that makes you want to protect her and take care of her. Her artlessness makes her come across as honest and genuine. It is this that attracts Maxim and of course the fact that is she is nowhere like Rebecca.

rebecca

A scene from Rebecca and one of my favourite quotes from the book

Considering the book is a first person narrative we get to see her through her own eyes only. She is overly critical of herself. Almost till the end of the book she remains unsure of herself worrying if she were being mocked or found lacking by Maxim, the neighbours and even by the servants of the house.

When she does forget to be self-conscious she makes for an interesting companion, at least to Maxim she does. “You’ve taken me out of myself, out of despondency and introspection both of which have been my devils for a year,” he says.

She is amazingly perceptive to people’s emotion specially Maxim’s. She registers each of his mood changes even though she doesn’t understand them. She loves him too and struggles to put him at ease steering the conversation away from topics he finds uncomfortable. She is almost obsessed by him and his attitude towards her, analysing it constantly (perhaps that’s how it is with young first love) and that makes her obsessed with Rebecca.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

abc 17 (1)

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37 thoughts on “The Unnamed Heroine

  1. lesliebc

    I read this book years ago, but now that you’ve blogged about it, it makes me want to read it again. Thanks!

    Leslie
    abcw team

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  2. Melody

    ahhhhhhhhhh this book i knowwwwwwwwww
    i remember reading it years ago and i loved the story…. the film i’ve seen to but the book was much better.. if i may say so

    Have a nice abc-day / – week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y <abc-w-team)

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  3. readerwil

    I am a great fan of Daphne du Maurier and read about 16 books by her. Many of them are set in Cornwall and that happens to be my favourite part of the UK. Thanks for this bookreview!
    Wil, ABCWTeam

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  4. diwestwell

    I love Daphne du Maurier’s works particularly’ Rebecca’. It really never occurred to me that she didn’t have a surname, I was too intent on reading the story with all the twists and turns,
    I rather liked ‘Jamaica Inn’ too. I loved the intrigue of the smugglers and the bleakness of the Bodmin Moor where it still exists today, There is a museum at the Inn containing lots of artefacts relating to Daphne du Maurier’s life and works.
    Interesting slant on Rebecca, I enjoyed reading this, thank you.
    best wishes,
    Di.
    ABCW team.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Oh I really must pick up more of her books. I wonder why I never looked out for others despite enjoying Rebecca so much. Thanks Di for dropping by.

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  5. Soumya Prasad

    This is one of my favorite books. I’m glad the author did not name this heroine, as the focus had to be on Rebecca alone. She is the ultimate heroine in the book after all.

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  6. Vidya Sury

    How interesting you picked this, of all books by du Maurier, Tulika. I still have the book – although I read it decades ago. I wasn’t much of a fan of the author, but my Mom insisted I read this one. Love your perspectives – I think I might have to read it again, just to see how I feel about it now.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      I think you might have found it scary. I did. But then I was very young when I read it. Now when I re-read it I enjoyed the suspense much more despite knowing the ending or maybe because I was putting the pieces together and appreciating the hints which I overlooked the first time round.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      It sure is. I love first person writing too. Makes it way more identifiable.

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  7. Su-sieee! Mac

    You have me wanting to read Rebecca now. I’ve not ever had the interest before. It intrigues me that the author does not name her character. I wonder if she got to a certain point while writing when she wondered if she could actually write the story without mentioning the character’s name at all. A shy person would want to be anonymous. Hmmm.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      You’re right maybe she picked it up like a challenge and then went on to build the story.

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  8. kalaravi16

    This is one of the books I read as a dreamy teenager. I remember imagining myself as the new Mrs De Winter….in love with the dashing Maxim. I hated Rebecca and Maxim too at times when I thought him still in love with Rebecca. Throughout the book…I was dying to know Mrs De Winter’s name…..in vain. I think that is the brilliance of this book. I relived the whole story reading this piece. Thanks.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      One of the reasons I loved this heroine was because she was so identifiable – a little lost in the big house. So I completely agree with you – imagining myself in her shoes was what I did too.

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