Chapter 8 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 806

The new Mrs. de Winter had not realized that life at Manderley would be so “orderly and planned.” On her first morning on the estate, she is downstairs for breakfast a little after nine o’clock and discovers that her husband is nearly finished eating. He dismisses her apology and explains...

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The new Mrs. de Winter had not realized that life at Manderley would be so “orderly and planned.” On her first morning on the estate, she is downstairs for breakfast a little after nine o’clock and discovers that her husband is nearly finished eating. He dismisses her apology and explains that running the estate is a full-time job and he cannot afford to get off to a late start. He points her to the sideboard where a sumptuous breakfast is ready and tells her this is a meal which they serve themselves.

While they were in Italy, de Winter ate only a croissant and fruit for breakfast, and his new wife sees this grand array of breakfast foods as being wasteful, wondering why he does not see this wastefulness as ridiculous and what happens to all the leftovers after they have eaten their small breakfasts. Perhaps the servants eat it, or perhaps it will all be thrown away; she will never know because she is too afraid to ask.

De Winter’s sister, Beatrice, has invited herself over for lunch to meet her new sister-in-law, and he says that she is a very direct woman and will say so right away if she does not like his young wife—a fact which the young girl does not find very comforting. He apologizes for not taking her to see the gardens, as he would have liked; however, he has to spend the morning with Frank Crawley, his estate manager, after his long absence. Though she is dismayed at the thought of being left alone, his young wife lies and says she will be “quite happy.” This is not how she had envisioned their first morning at Manderley.

She lingers over her meager breakfast until she sees Firth waiting discreetly to clear the meal and apologizes for dallying. There is a look of surprise in his eyes, and once again the girl wonders if he, like Danvers, can see that she lacks Rebecca’s poise, grace, and assurance, things she will only acquire over time. As she leaves the room, she trips over the rug and Firth catches her while the young footman, Robert, turns away to hide his smile.

When she returns to her rooms, she finds a housekeeping crew already working and realizes she is disrupting the household routine, so she creeps quietly down to the library. It is chilly now, unlike last night, and she wants to light the fire; unfortunately, she cannot find any matches. When she thinks no one is there, she sneaks back into the dining room and grabs some matches. Firth re-enters before she can leave and asks how he can help her.

After she explains her wish for a fire in the library, Firth explains that the library fire is never lit until the afternoon, but there is a fire in the morning-room where the first Mrs. de Winter always did her correspondence and made her phone calls. The young girl is mortified that she does not know where that room is and leaves determined to find it on her own. She tries the first door she sees and it is a gardening room; when she comes back out, Firth is waiting to offer her directions and she humbly accepts them.

The dogs are already in the morning-room, obviously well aware that this is where the fire has been lit. The girl knows she will see the blood-red rhododendrons out of the window, and she is right. The room is graceful and fragile, and the same flowers profusely arranged in bowls and vases around the room. The desk is organized, not a place for casual or careless work. She is startled to see Rebecca’s handwriting again; she recognizes it immediately though she has only seen it once before, in the book of poems de Winter gave her.

She looks through the drawers and sees detailed records of each guest who visited Manderley over the past year: when they arrived, where they slept, and what they were served to eat. She feels guilty at her intrusion before she is startled by the phone. When the voice on the other end of the line asks for Mrs. de Winter, she answers that Mrs. de Winter has been dead for a year. It is the house phone and Danvers explains that she is calling her; the young girl is mortified at her mistake.

Danvers wonders if the menu is acceptable; of course the girl has no preferences and tells Danvers so, despite being pressed by the older woman. Mrs. Danvers tells her Robert is available to collect any letters for mailing, and this makes the girl feel guilty for having no one to write to except for Mrs. Van Hopper. Compared to Rebecca’s flowing handwriting, hers looks cramped and childish.

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