Saturday, November 12, 2011

once every couple years I wonder anew

What the hell is up with this?

That is Maxim de Winter to the second Mrs. de Winter, ramping up to the denouement of Rebecca, confessing his killing of his first wife (Rebecca).

It's so bald and discrete, that sentence--referenced by nothing in the book before or after. It's dropped like a tidy little grenade, pin in, in the middle of a confession so shocking that it distracts you from what's being said. "I'd forgotten"…forgotten? Maxim has shot people before?

Because of a perennial mystery novel mindset and a love of discordance, I have generally chosen to see the comment as meaningful and mysterious--once I noticed it. However, chances are really good DuMaurier was telling us, more "prosaically," that Maxim had shot people in World War I.

I've decided that makes it no less shocking, though. There is no context for Maxim's comment at all. I don't think there is any talk anywhere in the book of his military service (rather the opposite--all Maxim does is run Manderley; he has no 'job'). Or anybody's. (Am I wrong? Does Frank Crawley talk about it?)

But if the comment is indeed a casual reference to the horrors of World War I, and not a hint at further lurid personal history from Maxim, it's still rather shocking as an assumption of experience, by a certain kind of person and/or DuMaurier's readers. It's sad.

I admire her for dropping it in those last chapters, which (I'm such a middle class dilettante lady) I admire themselves so much for their plotting. I think they're just beautiful. I love that Rebecca is smarter than every character, that the secret revealed by Dr. Baker at the end isn't the one we expected, but makes things clear nonetheless and in fact opens things up even more. It's all just cool.

I have made an effort at other DuMaurier--Jamaica Inn and Frenchman's Creek. No go. I don't think I like gothic/horror books very much, or perhaps I am too impatient. Who knows. I'll try again.

And whom did Maxim shoot?

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