Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 551

A woman dreams she is standing outside the iron gate of the driveway and for a while, she is not allowed to enter. She calls to the lodge keeper but can see that the lodge is empty; however, with the ability so often given to dreamers, she exhibits supernatural powers...

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A woman dreams she is standing outside the iron gate of the driveway and for a while, she is not allowed to enter. She calls to the lodge keeper but can see that the lodge is empty; however, with the ability so often given to dreamers, she exhibits supernatural powers and passes through the gate. The drive looks like it always has, yet it is narrower, unkempt, and overgrown as it had never been when she lived there. The woods, which had always been menacing, have finally encroached on the property.

She walks the winding drive, sometimes losing the path in the overgrowth, and her walk is so prolonged that she thinks it may lead into wilderness rather than to the house. Then she comes upon the house suddenly and tears prick her eyes. Manderley is there, “secretive and silent as it had always been.” The gray stone shines in her dream and even time has not ruined the perfect symmetry of its walls. Though the house stands untouched, the garden is as overgrown as the driveway. What was once a beautiful and colorful place is now overrun with weeds and nettles.

Because she is a spirit in her dream, she walks through the nettles and onto the terrace. As she stands in the silence and moonlight, she can believe the house is not just an empty shell but a living, breathing entity. Light comes from the windows and curtains blow softly in the air; in the library, the door is open as she left it, and her handkerchief is sitting by a bowl of autumn roses. In the fireplace, embers are still smoldering from their log fire, and Jasper the dog is lying on the floor, tail thumping as he hears his master approaching.

A cloud passes over the moon and suddenly every sign of life in the house is extinguished. It is once again a “desolate shell, soulless at last, unhaunted, with no whisper of the past about its staring walls.” The house is a tomb where all her fear and suffering are buried, and there will be no resurrection. When she thinks of Manderley in her waking hours, she will no longer be bitter. She will think of it as it might have been if she could have lived there without fear. She will remember the rose garden in summer and the birds singing at dawn. She will remember enjoying her tea under the chestnut tree and the whisper of the sea coming up from the lawns below the house.

These memories are permanent and cannot be damaged or dissolved. These are the memories that have no power to hurt her. All of this she resolves as she dreams, perfectly aware that she is dreaming. In reality, she is sleeping hundreds of miles away in an alien land, and in a few moments, she will wake up in a small, bare, and oddly comforting hotel room. She will sigh, stretch, and be baffled by the sunlight, so different from the moonlight of her dream. The day will stretch ahead of them both, uneventful but laden with a stillness and tranquility they had never before known. They will not speak of Manderley and she will not speak of her dream. Manderley is no longer theirs; Manderley is no more. 

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Chapter 2 Summary