Sunday, October 31, 2010

Essay on Rebecca

The Use of Characterisation in ‘Rebecca’ Essay

Daphne Du Maurier wrote Rebecca in 1938. It is a timeless saga of love and power that has some similarities with Du Maurier’s life, such as the modelling of Maxim (a main character) on her husband. Authors use characterisation in texts to manipulate readers to respond to a particular theme. There are many themes present in Rebecca, but through characterisation, Du Maurier encourages the reader to respond to her theme of power. Throughout the text, Du Maurier demonstrates to the reader, how power creates fear, how power can remain after death, how money creates power, how relationships can fail if one person holds the majority of power, how first impressions can set up the power balance in a relationship and how people can abuse their power. Through the actions and dialogue of characters Mrs De Winter, Mrs Danvers, Favell and Maxim, Du Maurier presents to the reader certain aspects of power.

In Rebecca, Mrs De Winter’s actions show the reader how power can create fear. Mrs De Winter accidentally knocks over a vase in the morning room, causing it to break. She then quickly hides the pieces, like a child. Through this characterisation technique, the reader can see that although Mrs De Winter is the mistress of the house, she is scared of one of the servants, whom is supposedly below her. Du Maurier manipulates the reader to relate to the anxiety Mrs De Winter is feeling. It is apparent that Mrs De Winter feels inferior to Mrs Danvers and she, like the reader, is fearful of her reaction. Du Maurier wants the reader to realise that power can make people afraid and can cause secrecy.

The actions of Mrs Danvers, present to the reader, how a person’s power can remain even after death. Mrs Danvers has kept Rebecca’s room just as it was before her death. The reader cannot comprehend why Mrs Danvers is living in the past, instead of moving forward. The way in which Mrs Danvers worships and maintains Rebecca’s room, shows the reader how powerful Rebecca was. The reader can see that Rebecca’s power has continued after her death and she still remains in control of Manderly. This explains why Mrs Danvers holds so much power at Manderly. It is as if she has taken over where Rebecca left off. Through this use of characterisation, Du Maurier has presented to the reader, how some people, with extreme power, can still rule over others after death and this can cause problems with life.



Favell’s dialogue in Rebecca encourages the reader to see how money creates power. Throughout the text, Maxim is portrayed as being a rich and idolised figure. Once Favell tells Maxim he has evidence against him. He suggests that for “two or three thousand” he would keep quiet. This dialogue is conveying to the reader a direct link between power, money and corruption. Although Maxim refuses the offer, he still gets away with murder, because no one suspects him, as he is a respected figure at Manderly. Du Maurier is suggesting to the reader, that people with money have automatic power and they can use this power to their advantage.

In Rebecca, Du Maurier uses the dialogue of Maxim, to show the reader how a relationship can be jeopardised when one person holds most of the power. Maxim calls Mrs De Winter a “little idiot” when he finds out Mrs De Winter has hidden the pieces of the broken vase. The tone in which this dialogue is said, implies that Maxim believes he is more mature than Mrs De Winter. The reader is horrified that Maxim would be so arrogant, as to call his wife such an offensive name. Instead of sympathising with Mrs De Winter, he has carelessly brushed her problems aside by criticising her. The reader can see Maxim is a busy man, who believes that his life is more important than his spouse’s. Du Maurier has carefully chosen the words and tone to display to the reader, how in most relationships, if one person dominates over the other, the relationship is compromised.

Du Maurier uses actions to show the reader how first impressions can decide who holds the power in a relationship. When Mrs De Winter first arrives at Manderly, she is greeted by Mrs Danvers and as she is nervous, she drops her gloves. This action makes Mrs De Winter appear clumsy and unsophisticated. The reader can feel Mrs De Winter’s embarrassment and sympathises with her awkward position. The reader can see that through this first interaction, Mrs Danvers instantly knows she can overpower Mrs De Winter and does so throughout most of the text. Through this use of characterisation, the reader has learnt, how first impressions can show how dominant or submissive someone is. The reader is encouraged to realise, that the first interaction with someone can often set up the power balance in a relationship.

The reader is encouraged to see how power can be used to manipulate others through the actions of Mrs Danvers. Through previous characterisation the reader knows that Mrs Danvers has a strong hold over Manderly. Mrs Danvers uses this power to convince Mrs De Winter to wear Rebecca’s dress to the fancy dress ball. The reader can see that Mrs De Winter trusts Mrs Danvers, so she feels compelled to wear Rebecca’s dress. Du Maurier is encouraging the reader to realise, that Mrs Danvers can use her power to influence Mrs De Winter. The reader feels hatred for Mrs Danvers, as she has intentionally abused her power to humiliate Mrs De Winter. Du Maurier wants the reader to realise, that power can be used to take advantage of people.

Through characterisation techniques, Du Maurier has presented to the reader, her theme of power in Rebecca. Dialogue and actions of Mrs Danvers have shown the reader, how power remains and how power can be used to make others feel uncomfortable. The characterisation of Mrs De Winter, Favell and Maxim has been used to encourage the reader to realise how power creates fear and secrecy, how money can create corruption and power and how the power balance in a relationship can be decided by the first meeting. The way in which Du Maurier has portrayed her theme of power, as an obstacle in people’s lives, still makes Rebecca relevant to individuals today. The positions the characters find themselves in, in Rebecca, can easily be related to similar situations in the readers’ lives. This excellent use of characterisation could be one of the reasons why Du Maurier’s novels are so popular.

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