How does the setting of Manderley contribute to the novel's plot and tone?

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kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Manderley is as brooding and sinister in the narrative as its former mistress, Rebecca. The novel opens with the narrator dreaming of the imposing family home which has been part of the De Winter family for generations-

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me that as I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and chain upon the gate.

As the story unfolds, we see that Manderley was barred to the narrator until its past-and that of Rebecca- is revealed. However, as Mr DeWinter is forced to confront the truth that the smooth running of Manderley by Rebecca was not worth the sacrifice of his dignity and happiness, the house is destroyed by the maniacal Mrs Danvers.

Manderley represents the old Victorian values of social status being more important than personal qualities. The 'new' De Winters leave Manderley for a new life unfettered by tradition, ritual and a world where image is more important than reality.

kathylgreenberg | Student

The idea and reality of Manderley contribute striking differences to the novel's plot and tone. Before the second Mrs. De Winter has ever seen the estate, she has formulated an opinion based on a postcard she once saw. Postcard images portray the best of a place, and that is exactly what the second Mrs. De Winter assumes to be true: Manderley must be a grand, proud, happy house. Her idea of Manderley mirrors her own naivety, which is still a shallow and white-washed appreciation of life.

Once the second Mrs. De Winter experiences Manderley for herself, her reaction triggers the full gothic force of Du Maurier's novel. The house's abundant foliage, expensive furnishings, and overall weighty presence intimidate the young woman. She is further cowed by the formality and machinations of the place. Combined, these elements set the tone for the rest of the story: an unbearably tense, nearly sadistic sense of doom.





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