Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier Book Review
Having a friend who made me crave approval made me understand the Narrator’s need for Maxim’s validation. In grade school I had a close friend named Alexandra. Actually Alexandra was my best friend. I did not have many friends in grade school so Alexandra being my best friend was a huge deal for me. She and I would hang out all the time and we were in the same class almost every year. Even though I was a trustworthy friend to Alexandra, she was not always a gracious friend to me.
Alexandra was more popular than I was. She had many friends besides me, but she was one of my only friends. She talked with almost everyone and knew way more people than I did. Alexandra would often make me feel like I had to earn her approval to stay her friend. I used to do everything I could to make her happy and be a worthy friend to her. I did this so that she wouldn’t leave me or choose someone else to be her best friend. She made me feel undeserving of our friendship. She talked about how she’s more popular and could have cooler friends.
There were times when I would give up things I wanted to make her happy. In sixth grade I had told her about a boy I had a crush on. The next day she came to school and told me that she also liked this boy. She said that since I wasn’t popular I should let her have him and not try to steal him from her. I didn’t want Alexandra to be mad at me so I let her have this boy. She proceeded to date him and rub it in my face. Even though I let Alexandra have things I wanted or took blame for what she did, she treated me like I wasn’t a loyal friend. She would tell me how much better her other friends were. This used to hurt me because I tried so hard to make her happy. No matter what I did, I always felt like I wasn’t enough to be her friend. This feeling helped me relate to how the Narrator felt when she felt she wasn’t enough compared to Rebecca. I felt like I wasn’t enough to Alexandra. I felt like Alexandra looked down on me and treated me like she was my friend out of pity. The Narrator already had felt that Maxim married her out of pity. I’m sure that her comparison to Rebecca didn’t help.
In chapter 9, the Narrator is going to meet Maxim’s sister for the first time. The Narrator becomes very nervous and avoids going to meet them right away. The Narrator is nervous because this is Maxim’s sister and she wants to make a good impression to make Maxim happy. Even though the Narrator does her best, she still slips up and makes mistakes. These mistakes embarrass her, and she worries about Maxim’s reaction. Also, at one point, the Narrator knocks over a glass and Maxim seems irritated. No matter how hard the Narrator tries she still feels that she is not what Maxim wants her to be. It doesn’t help that everyone keeps saying how different she is from Rebecca, including Maxim’s sister. During this scene in the novel I felt for the Narrator. Whenever I did something that Alexandra didn’t like, she too would get irritated. The more this happened, the more I tried to fix it. It didn’t matter what I did to fix it, though, because she only saw the mistake. Maxim does the same to the Narrator. Whenever the Narrator makes a mistake, he does not tell her it’s ok and reassures her, he becomes annoyed. Of course, the Narrator is going to feel like Rebecca is her competition. Everyone says she’s so different from Rebecca and the Narrator thinks that's an awful thing. Alexandra was like my own Rebecca. I tried to be like Alexandra so she would like me, but I could never live up to the expectation. Maxim’s sister tells the Narrator many times how different she is from Rebecca. I'm sure that makes the Narrator feel that she is a disappointment and wants to be more like Rebecca to satisfy him. Even though Maxim's sister doesn't say it's a bad thing, the Narrator still worries. I wanted to please Alexandra and I wanted to be like her. I looked to her when I wanted to do something, so I could do it how she wanted.
We see the Narrator try to impress Maxim again in chapter 16. Maxim and the Narrator are having a ball at Manderly, and the Narrator wanted to impress Maxim. She gets help from Mrs. Danvers to pick out the perfect dress. She is so excited for Maxim to see her in the dress that she keeps it a surprise. The Narrator doesn’t understand the significance of the dress. When she finally shows Maxim at the ball he gets mad at her and yells at her to go change. I know how the Narrator felt. When I would try to do something kind for Alexandra, she would usually find a way to complain that I wasn’t enough. I remember one time Alexandra and I planned on dressing up for school together. I wore pants and a shirt I loved. Alexandra was mad at me because she wore a dress and said I didn’t dress up at all. Like the Narrator, I became hurt because I thought I was doing the right thing. Alexandra would act like I messed things up on purpose and that I did it because I wanted to ruin things for her. The Narrator wanted to do something sweet for Maxim so that she would get the affection she craved from him. She felt she needed to escape Rebecca’s shadow. I wanted to do fun things with Alexandra, but she always took the fun out of the things I did for her.
The Narrator loved Maxim and wanted his endorsement so much so that she would do anything. We see this in chapter 20 after Maxim admits he killed Rebecca. The Narrator is not even horrified or mad at Maxim. The Narrator still wants to prove her love to Maxim even though he killed his previous wife. She could be in danger, but her need for Maxim’s love is too great. She would rather work for Maxim’s love than leave him. The Narrator wants Maxim to love her as much as she loved him. She was willing to look past murder if it meant Maxim would give her validation. I even understand when the narrator does this. I let Alexandra do what she wanted. When she talked to the boy I had a crush on, I let her and even encouraged her to talk with him. When wanting to impress someone, most people will do anything. The Narrator sees Maxim murdering Rebecca as a positive thing. She thinks by forgiving him, he’ll love her even more. I know what it’s like to want someone’s validation so much that you convince yourself of doing anything for them. Sometimes it’s better to let the person holding you back go and find worth in yourself but it can be hard to leave a person. Like the Narrator I let myself get treated like I wasn't enough. Instead of sticking up for myself I craved Alexandra’s blessing even more and tried to appease her. The Narrator and I were both in someone’s shadow and wanting appreciation. For me I wanted to get out of Alexandra’s shadow but also I wanted her to care about me. For the Narrator, she wanted Maxim’s to love her more than Rebecca.