Maxim de Winter. What is Maxim’s attitude toward the two Mrs. de Winters? “Stop biting your nails!” “Now eat it up like a good girl.”
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What is Maxim’s attitude toward the two Mrs. de Winters?
“Stop biting your nails!”
“Now eat it up like a good girl.”
“Which would you prefer? New York or Manderley? I repeat what I said. Either you go to America with Mrs. Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me. I’m asking you to marry me you little fool?”
Insisting his wife wear a raincoat: “You can't be too careful with children.”
What does this tell us about Maxim?
Maxim embodies an important Hitchcockian archetype: the masculinist drive to dominate, control, and (if necessary) punish women; the corresponding dread of powerful women, and especially of women who assert their sexual freedom, for what, above all, the male (in his position of dominant vulnerability, or vulnerable dominance) cannot tolerate is the sense that another male might be “better” than he was.
Maxim: I wonder if I did a very selfish thing in marrying you.Mrs. de Winter: What do you mean?Maxim : I'm not much of a companion to you, am I? You don't get much fun, do you? You ought to have married a boy, someone of your own age.Mrs. de Winter: Maxim, why do you say this? Of course we're companions.Maxim : Are we? I don't know. I'm very difficult to live with.Mrs. de Winter: No, you're not difficult, you're easy, very easy. Our marriage is a success, isn't it? A great success? We're happy, aren't we? Terribly happy? (He walks away.) If you don't think we are happy, it would be much better if you didn't pretend. I'll go away. Why don't you answer me?Maxim : How can I answer you when I don't know the answer myself? If you say we're happy, let's leave it at that. (He shuts off the light.) Happiness is something I know nothing about.
What does this tell us about Maxim – and about his wife?
They are locked in patriarchal, father-daughter, paternalistic relationship with both unconsciously attempting to heal childhood wounds (Imago Relationship Theory) and instead wounding each other all over again just as they were wounded by their primary caregivers as children.
How does Mrs. Danvers behave in Rebecca’s bedroom?
Why the hairbrush and the nightgown and not other objects in the room?
“Did you ever see anything so delicate? Look, you can see my hand through it!”
Why did she say: “You tried to take her place. You let him marry you. I've seen his face - his eyes. They're the same as those first weeks after she died. I used to listen to him, walking up and down, up and down, all night long, night after night, thinking of her, suffering torture because he lost her!”?
“Why don't you go? Why don't you leave Manderley? He doesn't need you... he's got his memories. He doesn't love you, he wants to be alone again with her. You've nothing to stay for. You've nothing to live for really, have you?”
Was Mrs. Danvers in love with Rebecca?
If you replace Mrs. Danvers’ references to Maxim with herself, her love for Rebecca becomes plain.
Edythe Van Hopper: “I knew his wife too. Before she married him, she was the beautiful Rebecca Hindreth, you know. Poor thing. I suppose he just can't get over his wife's death. They say he simply adored her.”
Crawley: “I suppose she was the most beautiful creature I ever saw.”
She could sail a boat, ride a horse, throw a party, and wear the latest fashion.
Maxim: “I was carried away by her - enchanted by her, as everyone was. And when I was married, I was told that I was the luckiest man in the world. She was so lovely - so accomplished - so amusing. 'She's got the three things that really matter in a wife,' everyone said: 'breeding, brains, and beauty.' And I believed them - completely. But I never had a moment's happiness with her. She was incapable of love, or tenderness, or decency.”
Maxim: "I'll make a bargain with you," she said. "You'd look rather foolish trying to divorce me now after four days of marriage. So I'll play the part of a devoted wife, mistress of your precious Manderley. I'll make it the most famous showplace in England if you like. Then, people will visit us and envy us, and say we're the luckiest, happiest, couple in the country. What a grand show it will be! What a triumph!“
Rebecca was an incestuous bisexual, having affairs with both her cousin Favell, her housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, and attempted to seduce her husband’s best friend Crawley. Maxim: “She even started on Frank, poor faithful Frank.”
Rebecca is a film about growing up – of moving on from the past.
Favell never grows up – moving easily from his affair with his married cousin, to blackmailing his former brother-in-law.
Mrs. Danvers never grows out of her love for Rebecca. It ultimately consumes her.
Maxim is never able to grow up enough to have an adult relationship, hence his choice of the second Mrs. de Winter.
The second Mrs. de Winter can only “grow up” by finding Mr. Right, who of course is her father, therefore dooming the relationship to failure as her childhood failed.
Maxim: “I can't forget what it's done to you. I've been thinking of nothing else since it happened. It's gone forever, that funny young, lost look I loved won't ever come back. I killed that when I told you about Rebecca. It's gone. In a few hours, you've grown so much older.”
The second Mrs. de Winter: “No, it's not too late. You're not to say that. I love you more than anything in the world. Oh, please Maxim, kiss me please.”
Maxim de Winter: “No, it's no use. It's too late.”
In terms of auterism, what is Hitchcock’s message: Is it that even plain, ordinary young women can lead exciting and important lives – but only if they find their dream man, their knight in shining armor, to stand beside them and love them? Do you think audiences had this interpretation? Did young women want to model themselves on the second Mrs. de Winter? The first?
Censorship (supported by the traditional Hollywood preference for happy endings) proved an obstacle that was in some ways insuperable. It is crucial to the narrative that Maxim killed his first wife—but the Production Code insisted that no one ever get away with murder.
This creates a serious problem for the viewer in the pivotal scene in which Maxim relates (and Hitchcock memorably dramatizes with his camera) the story of how Rebecca died: either we accept that the death was accidental, or we hypothesize that Maxim is lying (for which the film supplies no support).
Why is Maxim not convicted of murder? Is justice served by formal legal structures?