"I dreamt I went to Manderley again." (Dumarier 2) is the famous opening line to the classic novel Rebecca. Right from the beginning Dumaurier builds up the mystery of Manderley by showing a conflict between the way the main characters live now verses how they remember the tragic events of the past. The narrator is an inexperienced young girl who is overwhelmed when she moves into Manderley. The husband, Maxim, is still troubled by the death of his last wife Rebecca, which happened almost a year before. Rebecca is "a heroine that we never see in the flesh, but whose spell is written through every page" (Weeks 163). Mrs. Danvers is Rebecca's former maid who has sinister intentions and remains loyal to the dead Rebecca and is even obsessed with her in some ways. "Mrs. Danvers' relationship to Rebecca, is such that she could never allow herself to believe that any human being could destroy her" (Kelly 60). As clues to the cause of Rebecca' death are uncovered, the story form of the story changes. Dumarier uses not only writing techniques such as foreshadowing and symbolism to make the novel more suspenseful, but she also uses the elements of greed, deception, and insecurity to change Rebecca from a Gothic Romance novel into a successful mystery.
"The basic structure of Rebecca is that of the modern Gothic Romance" (Masterplots 3). The characters and the setting are similar to other books of the time. The narrator who goes un-named, is the "typical heroine of a Gothic Romance" (Masterplots 3). Her character is not very developed but the reader is able to relate to and sympathize with her. Rebecca also has the perfect setting for a Gothic Romance. Manderley is the isolated, beautiful, and mysterious place that is what really makes the story so engrossing. If the story took place anywhere else it would not have the same effect. There is a hint of the supernatural with the feeling that Rebecca still haunts the corridors of Manderley. "Rebecca is the demon that must be exercised from both Maxim and the narrorator's minds." (Kelly 55). In a way, Rebecca does still haunt Manderley through Mrs. Danvers. "Mrs. Danvers is the embodiment of Rebecca, who must be destroyed for the story to end" (Kelly 56). Maxim feels the presence of Rebecca and is haunted by his own past because of her. Rebecca is in many ways similar to the story of Cinderella, a classic Gothic Romance (Masterplots 3). The main character is a poor, inexperienced girl who falls in love with a wealthy, lonely, man. Mrs. Danvers is equivalent to the evil stepsisters, trying to destroy the main character. Both stories also have a ballroom scene in the middle that ends unexpectedly. Rebecca has a twist though, that changes the story dramatically. An investigation begins to find the cause of death of Maxim's former wife, Rebecca. At the beginning of the investigation Maxim admits to his wife that he murdered Rebecca and made it look like she drowned on accident. After that point the story becomes increasingly suspenseful as evidence leads closer and closer to the truth.
The insecurity of the narrator drives the suspense and helps the reader relate to her. The narrator was a poor girl who worked as an assistant to Mrs. Van Hopper, a very dominating woman. "At first the narrorator appears to have no identity at all, only serving Mrs. Van Hopper." (Kelly 54). In most social situations she was not even allowed to speak. She also seems to be unbelievably stupid at times. All of the sudden she was thrust into the position of mistress of Manderley. People would talk about every little thing she does and she is all over the newspapers. She is constantly being compared to Rebecca and this makes her feel very uncomfortable. People would say things to her like "You're so different from Rebecca", and this would make her feel even more inferior to the great Rebecca. She would also do stupid things like taking the advise of Mrs. Danvers when she knows that Mrs. Danvers hates her (Davenport, 162). Many people would feel insecure in her position though, and that helps the reader relate to her and sympathize for her. The narrator does not believe that Maxim loves her. She thinks that he still loves Rebecca. This keeps the reader trying