How is "The Uncanny" a possible psychoanalytical interpretation of du Maurier's Rebecca?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Uncanny" seems to be related to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. The definition for "uncanny" is:

...having or seeming to have a supernatural...basis...
One of the aspects of "uncanny" is the sense of the supernatural. This element is found in what seems to be the "ghostly presence" of Rebecca in the de Winter home long after she is dead. It is difficult to say if this is an actually occurrence of the supernatural or manipulation on the part of Mrs. Danvers who is determined that no one will take Rebecca's place in Manderley. With regard to Freud's work, "The Uncanny" concentrates on...
...the secret, the hidden, which gives rise to the notion of hostility and danger.

The danger is associated with confronting the secret, what is unknown. The uncanny relates to what is...

...true even in situations where we expect the new and with it the return of the dead to life.

The uncanny is found in a particular section of the novel where Mrs. Danvers has convinced the unnamed narrator to order a dress for the masquerade party taking place at Manderley. Mrs. Danvers suggests that the narrator copy the gown of a woman (Caroline de Winter) in one of the portraits at Manderley. The narrator is very excited about it:

The light shone on the picture of Caroline de Winter.

Yes, the dress had been copied exactly from my sketch of the portrait. The puffed sleeve, the sash and the ribbon, the wide floppy hat I held in my hand. And my curls were her curls, they stood out from my face as hers did in the picture. I don't think I have ever felt so excited before, so happy and so proud...

My heart fluttered absurdly, and my cheeks were burning. What fun it was, what mad ridiculous childish fun!...

I came forward to the head of the stairs and stood there, smiling, my hat in my hand, like the girl in the picture. I waited for the clapping and the laughter...Nobody clapped, nobody moved.

Maxim moved forward to the stairs, his eyes never leaving my face.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" he said. His eyes blazed in anger. His face was still ashen white...

"What is it? What have I done?"

"Go and change," he said, "it does not matter what you put on..."

I turned and ran blindly through the archway to the corridors beyond...

Then I saw that the door leading to the west wing was open wide, and that someone was standing there.

It was Mrs. Danvers. I shall never forget the expression on her face, loathsome, triumphant. The face of an exulting devil. She stood there smiling at me.

Beatrice explains what happened:

"You could not possibly have known, why should you?"

"Known what?"

"Why, the dress...the picture you copied of the girl in the gallery. It was what Rebecca did at the last fancy dress ball at Manderley. Identical...You stood there on the stairs, and for one ghastly moment I thought..."

The inference is that to Beatrice it seemed Rebecca had returned from the grave. Secondly, hostility and danger can be clearly perceived in the person of Mrs. Danvers who suggested the narrator wear the dress in the first place—knowing what would happen. While it seems "uncanny," it is in great part due to Danvers manipulation.

However, because the narrator senses Rebecca's presence all around her, especially in the west wing, the fear and terror described in "The Uncanny" is present: a sense of the supernatural.