Personal Reflection on Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a work that I have always felt very connected to.  I first encountered it my junior year of high school.  In my British Literature class that year, I had a final paper assignment that allowed students to pick any literary text that we wanted to write about.  My aunt recommended that I read Rebecca for this assignment because she thought it would be of interest to me.  Through my first reading of Rebecca, I had an analytical framework through which I was looking at the text because I was reading it knowing that that paper assignment was coming up.  I thought about it mostly in terms of identity and tracking how the text thought about the narrator and Rebecca.  It was very similar to the way that I read texts for English classes now; I always like to take notes of patterns, images, etc. in case I find compelling evidence for later essay assignments.  Partially, I wonder what it would be like to have read this book for the first time for simple enjoyment and not analysis.  Though, I think ultimately I would have missed much of what makes this text so rich and thought-provoking if I wasn’t being intentional with my reading in the first place.  This text was really one of the first books that I genuinely practiced close reading while reading, as much of high school English dealt with thematic analysis on a larger scale.  I think that my relationship with the text will be largely the same as I still have the reverence for it that I always have, but after spending much of college practicing close reading and analyzing, I think I will be able to take larger strides in analysis of the reading I will do now.

I’m drawn to Rebecca because of the way that it weaves elements of multiple genres together, such as the mix of romantic, gothic, and detective tropes.  I am also really drawn to the ways that the novel offers complex questions about identity, gender, power, and sexuality.  These themes have always been the most interesting fields of analysis for me.  Many of these theoretical frameworks offer insight into larger psychological arguments that I enjoy thinking about.  I am always interested in the expression of “the self” in characters and how their expressions are influenced or shaped by their environments.  The women in this text and the expression of their identities are so complex, and so I continue to be drawn to this text because I think that there is always more analysis that could, and should, be made.

4 thoughts on “Personal Reflection on Rebecca”

  1. I love how we can look back on books that we “had” to read in high school and see this change. I think that acknowledging the lack of enjoyment (that we wish that we had) really speaks to how much we have grown up. I think that the most interesting part of this blog post is how you draw the line between a theoretical approach to literature and reading for enjoyment. I think that exploring the differences in these approaches and their outcomes could be really fruitful for you. What does reading for just enjoyment really mean at this point? As writers, do we ever read as we think “normal” people might? (Half kidding, but still, entirely interested in how you can play with this boundary)

  2. I watched a film adaptation of this book as soon as we read a few chapters in class for your student-led discussion. I was so interested in the narrative and the style that I wanted to see how it has changed and remained the same. I resonated with how you ask questions about the character as “the self” in your reflection on your thesis texts because characters and their evolution/significance is an area of interest for my thesis as well.

  3. Thanks for this piece, Grace; a tracking of your affair with Rebecca. Why did your aunt think the novel “would be of interest” to you? What “analytical framework” did you use for Rebecca exactly? Is “identity” too broad of a framework, considering all the themes you listed? Do the multiplicity of genre interact with the multiple axes of identity? At the moment, what you have described of your interest in the novel is rather free-floating. Where are we in time and space? Context determines identity, no? It might be helpful as well to pick local sites in the book and read around/from there; like choosing to go back to certain scenes of a movie; like metonymy as a mode of reading? Would that reveal anything about the characters? The novel as a whole? Good luck!

  4. Grace, it was very fun to read your first interaction with Rebecca. I liked how you thought about if you would have a different relationship with the text if you read it just for pleasure the first time around. When I come across novels that are assigned to me in school and strike my interest, I usually channel those feelings that you felt and use them to read more work by that author. Of course you’re not guaranteed to like other work by that author as much as the original novel, but I have fun exploring the author. How Rebecca weaves different tropes together sounds very fascinating and I’m excited to hear more about your progress.

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