Why does Daphne du Maurier never give the latest Mrs. de Winter a name? She is one of the very few characters in Western literature to have no name. What is the effect on the reader, to never know this important character's name? Does the fact that she has no name make her unimportant, or does her anonymity make her stand out in your mind?
7 Answers | Add Yours
You know, the first time I read the book it didn't even occur to me that Mrs. de Winter didn't have a first name. I think the fact that it is written in the first person makes it less likely that do hear a name. How many of us ever say our own names in regular conversation?
I think it has more to do with emphasizing how she feels less important that Rebecca...
I think she remains unnamed as to emphasize that she is an "intruder" in Rebecca's place. It is easier to convey that someone is taking another person's place if we are not given that person's name. For example the protagonist is always talking about how it's Rebecca's chair, Rebecca's coat that the items cannot be then called oh this is now susan's chair... it shows Rebecca's lingering presence haunting manderly
In my opinion, the fact that she remains nameless enforces her insignificance and inferiority in comparsion to Rebecca. The fact that she is only referred to as 'Mrs De Winter' also builds up the link between herself and Rebecca... almost as if her likeness to Rebecca is increasing as the novel progresses.
Actually there are many situations where women do not have a personal name in literature, for example the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. We often assume a woman has a name when actually her identity is given only through her title and her married name. I am sure that Du Maurier was emphasising the fact that the narrator is impressionable and destined to 'become' whomever society moulds her to be. Her title of Mrs De Winter is so alien to her that she puts the telephone down when she is called with the title.
I think other editors are right in emphasising the difference between the narrator and her predecessor and rival, Rebecca. The novel, as suggested by the title, is completely dominated by the presence of Rebecca, and this is something that the narrator cannot seem to fight against. She shows herself to be impressionable and a "blank slate" in terms of her own likes and dislikes. She is not able to assert herself, and merely tries to step into the shoes of Rebecca without any success whatsoever. It would be interesting to consider what a sequel would look like though, as perhaps by the end of the novel the narrator has gained the self-possession and confidence that she lacked when she first met Maxim.
Of course this is just my own speculation, but I think du Maurier doesn't give the narrator a name, because she doesn't seem to ever have a strong personality of her own. She conforms to the traditional role of a woman in the home, yet secretly implicitly wishes to be like Rebecca, and often finds herself acting like her throughout the novel, like when she dressed up for the ball looking like Caroline de Winter - she even didn't recognise her own image, and it resembled what we knew of Rebecca. There are other examples.
I also think the fact that she is an unreliable narrator adds to this. In the prolepsis for example, the narrator uses the plural 'we' - indicating her so-called 'happy' marriage in exile, yet she uses the singular 'I' when she mentions she dreams of going back to England, yet she just mentioned she was hapyy and wouldn't want thongs any other way.
To me, Rebecca is the most memorable character.
We’ve answered 288,006 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question