What literary techniques, aspects of language and narrative lure readers into a passive reading of Daphne Du Maurier's novel Rebecca?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One of the ways in which Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca follows in the tradition of the Gothic novel is that, like other works of the genre, it is an essentially passive reading experience. Although some literary theorists may deplore this, in fact, considerable skill in a specific sort of literary technique is deployed in creating this effect.

The point of the 19th century sensation novel and subsequent versions of the Gothic was related to the discoveries of Marx, Freud, and Darwin, that we are all at the mercy of unseen on uncomprehended external forces that act upon us without regard to our will. It is this sense of the protagonist, and empathetic reader, being swept away by irresistible forces that produces a combination of suspense and horror.

The techniques include first, narrative filled with action, so that the plot moves swiftly, but we are missing key pieces of information and don’t understand why certain things are happening. A second key technique is limited third person narration; thus our viewpoint character is in ignorance. Finally, the almost clichéd and ordinary language used by du Maurier enables us to read very quickly, enforcing the sense of being swept away in a flood of actions.

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