December 22, 2023

#08-368: Rebecca

Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine as Maxim and
Mrs. de Winter in the Hitchcock adaptation (Wikipedia)

Note: The suspenseful novel Rebecca has a Hitchcockian twist at the end. No wonder Hitchcock made such a successful film of it!

Get Ready: What would you do if you learned you had a painful, fatal illness?

English author Daphne du Maurier's 1938 Gothic novel Rebecca has been adapted to stage and screen many times, most notably in Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 film version, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The title character, Rebecca, is never seen (alive). She was the first wife of the wealthy Englishman, Maxim de Winter; the narrator of the story is his never-named second wife, called only "Mrs. M. [for Maxim] de Winter" or "the second Mrs. de Winter."

This second wife met her husband while serving as companion to a rich American woman on holiday in Monte Carlo. They marry after just two weeks, and move to Manderley, his mansion in Cornwall.

Mr. de Winter's housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, was deeply attached to the first Mrs. de Winter: Rebecca. That wife died in a sailing accident about a year before the second Mrs. de Winter met her husband. Everyone considered Rebecca "the perfect wife"--or so it seemed. Mrs. Danvers tells the second Mrs. de Winter that she will never measure up to the perfection of Rebecca, and even nearly convinces her to kill herself.

But it turns out the sailing "accident" was no accident at all. Rebecca had told Maxim that she was pregnant with another man's child, that she would raise it as though it were Maxim's, and that there was no way he could stop her.

In a jealous rage, he shot her, and staged the sinking of her boat (with her body aboard) to look like an accident. He identified another woman's body as that of his wife, which actually lay under the sea.

But her body was discovered, and raised. Meanwhile, Rebecca's cousin (and lover) Jack Favell tries to blackmail Maxim. Through his machinations it comes to light that Rebecca could not have been pregnant: she was unable to conceive, but had terminal cancer, and had goaded Maxim into killing her to avoid a painful, lingering death.

Maxim reveals to the second Mrs. de Winter that he actually despised Rebecca, a cruel and manipulative woman. And he tells her that he has always loved her--and never Rebecca.

In the end, Manderley burns to the ground, a symbol of the end of the old way of life for Maxim and his new wife.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. blackmail
  2. conceive
  3. despised
  4. goaded
  5. Gothic
  6. machinations
  7. manipulative
  8. measure up
  9. Monte Carlo
  10. terminal
  1. make a baby
  2. controlling others' behavior
  3. a genre of horror story
  4. a gambling destination for the wealthy
  5. leading to death
  6. hated
  7. demand payment for keeping a secret
  8. schemes; manipulations
  9. pushed; drove
  10. be equal to

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 22, 2023


  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. a; 3. f; 4. i; 5. c; 6. h; 7. b; 8. j; 9. d; 10. e

  2. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. a; 3. f; 4. i; 5. c; 6. h; 7. b; 8. j; 9. d; 10. e