“In what ways does Rebecca demonstrate and subvert the conventions of the romantic genre? ” In Rebecca du Maurier appears to conform to the conventions of the romantic genre however, du Maurier has also subverted the genre of romance through her representation of the relationship between the narrator and Maxim and the structure of the novel. She has also incorporated of elements of the gothic genre and the psychological thriller. On the surface Rebecca appears to demonstrate the conventions of the romantic genre.
The storyline includes a heroine, who is thinks herself to be very plain “with straight, bobbed hair and youthful, unpowdered face, dressed in an ill-fitting coat and skirt…”, as well as a hero, who the heroine believes is “arresting, sensitive and medieval in some strange inexplicable way” as well as dark and mysterious. One convention of the romantic genre used in Rebecca is the exotic location at which they meet, Monte Carlo, and where Maxim asks her to “come home to Manderly” with him.
Like in many other romance novels there is someone who tries to break up the ‘happy couple’ as well as the ‘other woman’ however in Rebecca these are two different people. Mrs Van Hopper thinks the narrator is “making a big mistake” by marrying Maxim but does not try and stop the wedding as she thinks it will not work out anyway. In a very romantic genre-like style Maxim ‘saves’ the narrator from Mrs Van Hopper.
The narrator doesn’t listen to what Mrs Van Hopper says because she has found a “new confidence” and starts to fantasize about herself and Maxim “planning the future”, sitting “together in the dining room” and being able to “talk … about being happy”. Another convention of the romance genre is the ‘other woman’ who in Rebecca is the late Mrs de Winter. The narrator believes that Rebecca represents the love of Maxim’s life. When she finds the note that Rebecca had written in a book for Maxim, she decides to burn it and when she does, the narrator feels “the same freshness, the same gay confidence” that you feel at the “beginning of the year”.
The narrator burns Rebecca’s signature and watches the fragments flutter “to grey ashes” and then goes and washes her “hands in the basin” symbolising that she has washed her hands and her mind of Rebecca and feels triumphant over her. Rebecca demonstrates the basic conventions of a romance novel. Although Rebecca was first listed as a romance novel, in many ways it subverts the conventions. In most romance novels the plain heroine become beautiful by changing something about her, but in Rebecca the narrator stays the same throughout the novel and even when Beatrice tries to fix her hair she just makes it “worse. Another way in which du Maurier subverts the conventions of a romantic genre is how she structures the book. The wedding is at the start of the book rather than at the end and the book is on their life after being married not leading up to the marriage. Another factor on the structure of the novel is how they don’t have a happy ending, instead they watch their house burn down and the reader knows, from the start of the book, that the house is never restored and they are never happy. The convention of the ‘other woman’ is also subverted because she never does go away.
Instead she haunts Maxim and the narrator through memories, Mrs Danvers and even her routines that she left behind. The narrator is very aware of the fact that she is “sitting in Rebecca’s chair” and “leaning against Rebecca’s cushion”. Even the dog lays “his head upon” her knee “because that had been his custom”. Maxim does not change his routine which gives the impression that he still remembers her and the way she ran his house. The narrator is always trying to fit into ‘coats’ that are “too big” and “too long” that Rebecca has left.
Everyone around her is subconsciously comparing her to Rebecca and the narrator feels very uncomfortable around most people. In some way it is almost like Daphne du Maurier takes the conventions of a romance-genre and twists them so although Maxim apparently ‘saves’ the narrator from Mrs Van Hopper in fact he destroys her life. His world is full of pain and torture and now she has to go through that too. Another way in which Rebecca subverts the conventions of the romance-genre is by incorporating a murder into the plot.
The narrator thinks Maxim to be dark and mysterious, which he is, because he has been hiding the fact that he killed his first wife and apparently his child. Daphne du Maurier has written a romance novel that actually subverts the conventions of a romance in many ways. In Rebecca du Maurier has hybridised the romance with the gothic genre and the psychological thriller. In Chapter One the scene at Manderly closely resembles a nightmare. The imagery often relates back to a labyrinth and a monster which the readers can connect to the Greek story about Theseus and the labyrinth.
The story of the labyrinth and the monster symbolise Manderly as the labyrinth and Maxim being the monster at the middle of all the problems at Manderly. Du Maurier has also written a lot of imagery of death, and monstrosity and unnatural matings. All of these subtle hints are foretelling what is happening further on in the book. The death images predict the story about Maxim and Rebecca’s murder. The monstrosity symbolism is warning the reader about the monstrosity and torture of life at Manderly.
The ‘unnatural matings’ between the trees foretell the marriage between Maxim and the narrator, which is not one of love but in Maxim’s case a distraction. Du Maurier has incorporated the psychological thriller through Rebecca. Rebecca haunts Maxim with the guilt that affects his mind. Rebecca haunts the narrator through many ways. The narrator is obsessed with Rebecca and although is ‘forbidden’ to know information about her, tries to find out as much as she can. Also Rebecca had left many belongings behind with her writing and signature and since no one has taken her things away the narrator is forced to embrace Rebecca everyday.
Mrs Danvers also haunts them by reminding the couple, especially the narrator, about Rebecca and how everything used to be different. The way we are inside the narrators mind, makes the book very psychological. We know everything the narrator sees, knows and thinks about. Daphne du Maurier has written a book that both demonstrates and subverts the conventions of the romance novel. She has also integrated elements of the gothic genre and a psychological thriller through death and the ‘adventures’ of the mind.