What is a universal theme that Mrs. van Hopper, Mrs. Danvers, or Maxim illustrate in Rebecca?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would want to argue that one of the strongest themes that emerges from this excellent Gothic classic comes through the character of Maxim de Winter, the "hero" of the piece, who is shown in a shocking twist of events to have never loved his wife and to have murdered her in a fit of rage after years of psychological torture adminstered on him by Rebecca. What is interesting about this is the way that the narrative is structured so that we implicitly want to support the anonymous heroine and Maxim in their attempt to escape the consequences of his actions in murdering Rebecca. He is described in a sympathetic and pitiful way as he tells the narrator his story and how he was manipulated an abused by Rebecca:

"She knew I would sacrifice pride, honour, personal feelings, every damned quality on earth, rather than stand before our little world after a week of marriage and have them know the things about her that she had told me then."

As we find ourselves supporting the narrator and her husband, we want Maxim to escape punishment for what he has done and the murder he has committed. However, it is highly significant, that although another twist in the plot revealed that Rebecca was dying from a terminal illness and thus gives the motive for suicide, Maxim is not allowed to escape so easily, and as they return they see his beloved Mandeley being burnt to the ground and he and his new wife are plunged into a European exile. Every crime has its punishment somewhere along the line, and even twists of fate cannot change that, the novel seems to suggest.


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