Write a guided literary analysis/commentary on the opening of “Rebecca”

Published: 2021-07-04 01:15:05
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This whimsical extract is taken from the novel “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier written in the mid 1930’s. An unknown narrator opens the story, which is continually written in the 1st person narrative voice. The narrator takes us on a journey as she explores in ghostlike form though the grounds of Manderley where we discover the intentions behind her visit. Imagery and the continued use of certain themes help to establish significant questions about the plot of the novel such as “What is the nature of this mysterious Manderley?
”, and more, importantly, “what happened to it that makes the narrator dream about it repeatedly? ” The opening line of the extract automatically creates an intriguing tone through the use of the adverb “again” and the fact that this line is written in iambic hexamator enforces the idea of the setting being mystically alive. The starkness of the sentence “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. ” suggests the certain theme of nostalgia, almost as if the narrator would return to Manderley if she could but is prevented by some larger force.
The use of supernatural ideas is something that Du Maurier uses readily throughout the extract, such as the line “like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me” portraying a ghostly atmosphere as she is previously “barred” from entering, but in her dreamy state she has no obstacles. The narrator’s pensive state is interpreted through the choice of sentence structure, where long and complex sentences create the desired mood and slow the rhythm of the chapter down.
As the narrator proceeds further in to the grounds of Manderley we learn the extent of her memories, “As I advanced I was aware that a change had come upon it; it was narrow and un kept, not the drive that we had known” the first person, plural pronoun “we” demonstrates that she was not alone and her immediate awareness that something is not quite right shows how in-depth and detailed her memories are.
There is a strong theme of nature in the extract and this is through the imagery that describes the narrator immersed in the “jungle growth” that is “Manderley’s” garden. The nature described is seen as overpowering and somewhat ugly, “Nature…. In her stealthy, insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long, tenacious fingers” here the use of personifying nature creeping in creates the idea that the garden is alive and the verb “encroached” dismisses what we usually perceive nature to be; beautiful and indulgent but instead debris has accumulated in the absence.
Time is recreated in the more beautiful, but haunting, descriptions of how nature has taken over the grounds, which indicates a passage of time, “I did not recognise, squat oaks and tortured elms that straggled cheek by jowl with the beeches” the metaphoric language here gives the garden a monstrous image as each plant is viciously fighting others for a place to inhabit. This concept develops further with “the trees had thrown out low branches, making an impediment to progress; the gnarled roots looked like skeleton claws, Scattered here” the adjectives “gnarled” and “scattered” and “skeleton” which have connotations of neglect and eeriness.
The simile “roots like skeleton claws” suggests the feeling of death that the garden holds. At one point, the take-over of the plants is likened to an army, “now marching in unison with the ivy… nettles were everywhere, the vanguard of the army” creating an image of the unstoppable force of nature. In juxtaposition to this the tone completely changes to “the soft grass where the daffodils had blown” one of peace and tranquillity when the narrator comes in to contact with the house. The opening line of this paragraph “There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been.
” relates back to other points in the extract where she reminisces over memories of the house. The personal pronoun “our” again shows her feeling of ownership and belonging to the house. The sibilance created in “secretive and silent” develops the idea that Du Maurier has carefully chosen words that reciprocate the dreamy and relaxed mood. As the tone changes even the decay of the surroundings cannot overwhelm entirely the beauty that is the house. The perfect symmetry of the metaphor “ a jewel in the hollow of a hand” shows how preciously she views this haven.
However the tone continues to change as we are transported back with hideous imagery “a host of nameless shurbs, poor, bastard things… a lilac a mated with a copper beach” and “there was another plant too, some half-breed from the woods” the semantic field of plants and flowers hasn’t created an image of beauty but one where the inhabitants are violently raping the garden. The tone changes once more as the dreamer views the house as living and breathing as it had before “Moonlight can play odd tricks upon a fancy, even upon a dreamer’s fancy…I could swear that the house was not an
empty shell but lived and breathed as it had lived before” the metaphoric language creates an image of the moonlight casting shadows on the house as the “empty shell is personified making the narrator believe that people may be living inside. This shows the dreamer’s desire to have things as they once were. However this illusion of serenity and memories is shattered and the reality of a “desolate shell” emerges. The narrator describes “The house was a sepulchre, our fear and suffering lay buried in the ruins, there would be no resurrection.
” A negative atmosphere is created and we as readers begin to become curious about what has happened In the house as she indicates that there is no possibility of return in the declarative utterance “there would be no resurrection. ” As the extract ends, the concluding sentence “We would not talk of Manderley, I would not tell my dream, For Manderley was ours no longer, Manderley was no more” shows that the narrator’s obsessive preoccupation with Manderley in her dreams is longer the same in real life.
She has learnt to let go of the past as she visited one last time. I think this extract is successful in the way in which we as readers are transported through the imagery and sense of mystery, to a place where the story unfolds events that contribute to the loss of Manderley and we watch the narrator grow in character as she finally lets go of her beloved Manderley. As the extract unravels the dream like state persists, memories surface and linger, and we are not yet sure where the story is taking us…but one thing is for sure we are drawn into the idea of Manderley.

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