The novel follows a chronological structure from chapter 3 onwards, which in itself does not demand too much active reading. However, the first chapter is a dream sequence, in which the narrator describes the gothic grandeur of the setting, Manderley-
The house was a sepulchre, our fear and suffering lay buried in the ruins. There would be no resurrection. When I though of Manderley in my waking hours I would not be bitter. I should think of it as it might have been, could I have lived there without fear.
The reader is intrigued by the emotions created buy the setting, and reads actively to discover what the source of the narrator’s fear was.
The second chapter is told in reflection, in which the narrator reveals details of characters and events which the audience will not be able to place until later in the text. In this way, the reader is ‘awakened’ to the story, and reads actively to piece together the information which is revealed-
Mrs Danvers. I wonder what she is doing now. She and Favell. I think it was the expression on her face that gave me my first feeling of unrest. Instinctively I thought, “She is comparing me to Rebecca”; and sharp as a swordthe shadow came between us…
A third technique used by du Maurier to encourage active reading is that the antagonist carries the title of the book, and yet is dead before the story begins. In reading to piece together the story of Rebecca, we are led to the lives of the other characters whose lives she touched and destroyed – Maxim, Mrs Danvers and of course, the unnamed narrator.