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There has been much debate as to whether “Rebecca” actually constitutes literature, which would by definition demand an active reader.
I would say that the reader does indeed need to be active to appreciate the nuances of character within the novel. Much of what we ascertain to be important about the individuals is unsaid. We are told that Rebecca herself is
the most beautiful creature
and with passive reading we can interpret the surface meaning of this, as the narrator does, to understand why Rebecca was so popular. It is as we read on that the relevance of the term ‘creature’ becomes more prevalent. Rebecca was a scheming, cruel woman who tortured her husband with her infidelity. She was more ‘creature’ than ‘beautiful’.
As reader we need to develop our own conclusions about the characters beyond what we are told by the narrator. Maxim de Winter is a proud, aloof man; passionate yet tormented by the death of his first wife. The torment is not, as his second wife ascertains, a grief for her loss and the joy of their past but, we realize, a fear of her spoiling his future.
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