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