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When a loved one passes away what emotion is more commonly felt than others? Greif; it is almost impossible not to have felt it throughout the course of life. Talking of this brings up the question what kind of effect does an emotion such as grief have on the human?" The answer: it can forever change the capacity to love, and continue on with life. In the story Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier feelings of grief overwhelm the characters, affecting their lives and relationships with one another in a negative way.
Frank is one of many characters who are subject to the effects of grief. Mrs. De Winter is constantly observing Frank's shyness towards her whenever Rebecca is mentioned. At one point in particular Mrs. De Winter is questioning Frank on the details of Rebecca's death; she says "There was a sudden reserve in his manner as he said this, a certain shyness" (DuMaurier 127). Reactions like this are common occurrences in the conversations between Frank and Mrs. De Winter. Whenever Rebecca is mentioned Frank seems to build up a sort of wall, therefore limiting the relationship between him and Mrs. De Winter. Mrs. De Winter, along with Frank, feels a sense of grief because of Rebecca. She, who never met Rebecca, is affected by the grief caused from her death.
Throughout the novel Mrs. De Winter expresses her frustrations involving Rebecca. She always feels like there is a gulf between her and Maxim because the memory of Rebecca is just too strong. She says "Would we never be together, he a man and I a woman, standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, with no gulf between us" (196)? She never voices these concerns of inadequacy to Maxim because she doesn't wish to cause him pain with memories of Rebecca. This makes it seem like there is a missing element in their relationship.
Mrs. De Winter always talks of her difficulties going about and performing day to day tasks. She says "but Frank did not have to sit in the morning-room as I did, everyday and touch the pen she had held between her fingers" (136). Mrs. De Winter can't do any simple thing without the memory of Rebecca's death looming over her, for everything she touches she knows does not belong to her. She also claims that she often feels as if Rebecca is as real for her as for Mrs. Danvers. All of the grief surrounding her makes it seem like she personally knew Rebecca (136). This makes it hard for her to be happy and move on with life even though she wasn't even present at the time of the accident. Mimi Lu backs this statement up. She says
"Throughout the book, the girl is incapable of stepping out of Rebecca's shadow; Rebecca's beauty, grace and, most importantly, Maxim's love seemed to elude her. Her own lack of individuality and initiative not only allows Rebecca's spiritual presence to plague her, but also to continue to reign as the real Mrs. de Winter" (Lu).
The grief and mystery surrounding Rebecca and all who knew her haunts Mrs. De Winter daily, and limits her relationship with Maxim. She always feels as if she can't go to Maxim because he will be pained with the memory and grief of Rebecca. Of course, when analyzing relationships such as these, both sides must be viewed.
Maxim's grief, although quite a different type than that of others in the house, is still grief all the same. His grief is more of a grief for the burden and stress that the murder of his wife has caused him, and how Rebecca never seems to leave him alone, even after death. He always seems distant when talking to Mrs. De Winter. She describes the way he touches her by saying it is "like a pat on the head of Jasper. Good dog then, lie down, don't worry me anymore" (DuMaurier 118). He always appears to be thinking of something else, perhaps the short amount of allotted time he and Mrs. De Winter have before Rebecca's body is finally found (268).
Another example of the stress grief can induce in a relationship appears when Mrs. De Winter unknowingly copies the costume that Rebecca wore at Manderley's last fancy dress ball. Maxim seems to transform into another person. His voice turns icy and bitter. His skin stretches tight across his face, and his eyes bulge with anger and hostility (214). He's extremely infuriated. Just a simple memory can bring back flooding memories of grief and hardship. Maxim's reaction to these memories creates a sort of scar in their relationship. Mrs. De Winter goes crying to her room, and refuses to come down. Eventually she joins Maxim at the party, but they never actually talk until later because she is frightened with his anger (230). This limits their relationship, thus creating an even bigger "gulf" than the one mentioned earlier.
At another point in the story Mrs. De Winter mentions that "I could tell by the tightening of Maxim's muscles under my arm that he was trying to keep his temper" (93). This reaction is caused by the discussion of Maxim's health during the months of grief and anxiety that followed Rebecca's death. He gets angry and tense until the subject is changed. This can limit the relationship between Maxim, his sister and Mrs. De Winter. If they are always mindful of the many subjects that irk Maxim then there isn't much left to talk about.
Not only do they have to watch the words they say around Maxim, but they also have to watch the places they go. Maxim won't follow Mrs. De Winter when she pursues Jasper on the beach because Rebecca's cottage is over there, and that brings up painful memories and grief associated with Rebecca's murder (112). It is also common for Maxim to tell her things such as '"you would not go there either if you had my memories"' (115). Mrs. De Winter also notes that "his face was white, and his eyes strained and wretched with that dark lost look they had had when I first met him" (115). Maxim seems to resort to his old self whenever a memory of Rebecca arises. He, like Frank, has built up a sort of wall. The grief of Rebecca and her memory keeps Maxim from fully developing a relationship with Mrs. De Winter.
Of all the characters, Mrs. Danvers is the most affected by the grief of Rebecca's death. She has little mental breakdowns throughout the book. She is the one that suggests that Mrs. De Winter copy the picture in the hall. She never even mentions that Rebecca wore that same costume at the last fancy dress ball. She acts nice about it and promises not to tell anyone, but she really has a sinister motive (199). When the costume is finally revealed and Mrs. De Winter flees to her room she runs into Mrs. Danvers, and says "I shall never forget the expression on her face, loathsome, triumphant. The face of an exulting devil" (214). She feels loyal to Rebecca even after death, so she ultimately destroys the relationship she had or could have had with Mrs. De Winter and Maxim.
Mrs. Danvers also goes crazy any time Rebecca is mentioned. At one point when Mrs. De Winter stumbles upon Rebecca's room she says that Mrs. Danvers "bent down to me, her skull's face close, her dark eyes searching mine. "The rocks had battered her to bits you know," she whispered, "her beautiful face unrecognizable, and both arms gone"' (170). She starts saying extremely morbid things and her face is twisted with grief and agony. She cannot properly handle the memories of Rebecca because the grief is just too overwhelming.
Also, while Mrs. De Winter is in Rebecca's room, it is made evident that Mrs. Danvers cannot bear to let Rebecca go. She is so overcome with grief that she lays Rebecca's clothes out every night, and keeps her room in perfect working order. The grief has almost driven her to insanity. It seems as if she's just waiting for Rebecca to return to her and take back her place as Mrs. De Winter (169). At another time during this encounter Mrs. Danvers has a death grip on Mrs. De Winter's arm and she "could see how tightly the skin was stretched across her face, showing the cheekbones. There were little patches of yellow beneath her ears" (170). The grief not only affects her mental health, but her physical health as well. Her grief and inability to forget also causes her to loathe Mrs. De Winter the moment she sees her. In this case, the grief prevents a healthy relationship from developing between Mrs. Danvers and Mrs. De Winter. It prevents both characters from living healthy, happy lives.
In conclusion, grief can cause people to come to the brink of insanity. It can torture them on the inside out, affecting every aspect of their lives. It will affect future relationships, like the relationship Mrs. De Winter has with Maxim, Mrs. Danvers, and Frank. It can ultimately end in sorrow even for those who were not directly involved with the cause of grief.