header logo

Rebecca Summary


Here you will find a Rebecca summary (Daphne du Maurier's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

P.S.: As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from purchases made through links in this page. But the summaries are totally free!

Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Rebecca Summary Overview

The protagonist, unnamed, and her spouse, Maxim de Winter, are moving from one European hotel to another, cherishing the memories of a beautiful dwelling called Manderley, which was devastated by fire. Reminiscing about the past, the protagonist remembers how she and Maxim met in Monte Carlo. During this period, she was employed as a travel companion for a wealthy American, Mrs. Van Hopper. Maxim was staying in the same hotel and after a short acquaintance, he proposed. Following their marriage, they moved to Manderley, his ancestral home. However, their life was overshadowed by the untimely demise of Maxim's previous wife, Rebecca, who had drowned near the estate. The presence of Rebecca's loyal housekeeper, the eerie Mrs. Danvers, combined with the constant reminders of Rebecca's perfection, fueled the protagonist's feeling of inferiority and her suspicion that Maxim was still attached to Rebecca. Every year, a fancy-dress ball was organized at Manderley, and as the event approached, the protagonist found herself enthusiastic. However, the celebration ended poorly when Mrs. Danvers tricked her into wearing the same outfit Rebecca had worn at the previous ball. This had a profound effect on Maxim, and the protagonist became convinced that Maxim was still devoted to his deceased wife. The following day, a shipwreck was discovered near the mansion, and divers found Rebecca's sailboat, with her body inside. This led Maxim to confess to his new wife that Rebecca was a manipulative woman, embroiled in numerous affairs and planning to bear another man's child. In a fit of rage, Maxim had shot her and then sunk her boat with her body inside. The protagonist's knowledge about Rebecca's true character rejuvenates her marriage, although Maxim soon finds himself facing legal issues. The discovery that Rebecca's boat had been tampered with raised suspicions of murder. Rebecca's cousin, Jack Favell, accused Maxim of the crime, leading to an investigation by Colonel Julyan. A visit to a Doctor Baker in London, whom Rebecca had seen on the day of her death, uncovered that Rebecca had been terminally ill with cancer and was infertile, contradicting her claim of pregnancy and providing a possible reason for suicide. As they returned to Manderley after being cleared of the murder charges, they found the mansion ablaze with Mrs. Danvers missing.

chapter 1

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" is the opening line of Rebecca. The unnamed protagonist dreams she is a specter, wandering through the burnt remnants of Manderley, her former home, now a ruin. Upon waking, she decides to stay silent about her dream because "Manderley was ours no longer. Manderley was no more." It quickly becomes evident that her husband, yet to be named, is the only one she could confide in. They're journeying across Europe, taking up residence in modest hotels to evade familiar faces. They're recovering from a recent ordeal linked to Manderley's ruin, but the protagonist keeps the details of their plight to herself.

chapter 2

The protagonist's mind is filled with fragments of a past life, longing for her pet, Jasper, and reminiscing about the cooking routines at Manderley. Thoughts of Mrs. Danvers and a man named Favell also cross her mind, and she ponders their current whereabouts. It's revealed that Mrs. Danvers often contrasted her with someone called Rebecca, though the specifics remain elusive. The protagonist's mind then drifts to her youthful days and the narrative shifts to a flashback, where the true tale unfolds.

chapter 3

The protagonist, a young woman whose name is never revealed, accompanies Mrs. Van Hopper, a rich American lady, around Europe. They pay a visit to Monte Carlo, a popular French resort town, where Mrs. Van Hopper recognizes an attractive middle-aged man named Maxim de Winter. He's known for owning Manderley, a renowned estate, and is said to be grieving his late wife. Mrs. Van Hopper, a meddlesome, brash individual, invites him to tea and embarrasses the protagonist with her crass behavior. Despite Maxim's initial cool treatment, he later apologizes for his conduct in a note to the young woman.

chapter 4

Mrs. Van Hopper falls sick the next day allowing the protagonist a day off. She encounters Maxim at lunch who invites her to accompany him for a drive along the scenic coastline. He retains an amiable nature throughout, barring a certain spot with a breathtaking view that seems to stir an unsettling memory within him. As their journey concludes, the protagonist spots a poetry book in the car, which Maxim insists she takes. Later, she discovers the book is dedicated to "Max--from Rebecca," reminding her of Mrs. Van Hopper's story about Maxim's deceased wife, Rebecca, who tragically drowned near Manderley.

chapter 5

After spending more time with Maxim on several drives, the young woman finds herself hopelessly in love with him. However, Maxim's consistent formal and kind demeanor makes her doubt if he would ever reciprocate her feelings. The only exception is when he passionately insists that she is not a "charity" case for him, but a reason for him to stay in Monte Carlo. He admits to feeling dead inside and credits her for making him feel alive. Yet, the woman constantly measures herself against Maxim's deceased wife Rebecca, inevitably seeing herself as lacking. Meanwhile, Mrs. Van Hopper is oblivious to these outings, as the woman has fabricated stories about tennis lessons to justify her absences.

chapter 6

Suddenly, Mrs. Van Hopper decides to depart Monte Carlo for New York, naturally expecting her companion, the heroine, to join her. On their departure day, the heroine visits Maxim in his room intending to bid him farewell, assuming they'd never cross paths again. To her amazement, he invites her for breakfast and bluntly proposes marriage. Once he secures her belief in his genuine intentions, she agrees, and he takes on the task of informing Mrs. Van Hopper. The older woman is displeased by the news. In private, she accuses the heroine of deceit about her Monte Carlo endeavors and publicly warns her of her likely failings as Manderley's mistress. "Personally," she states scornfully, "I think you are making a big mistake--one you will bitterly regret."

chapter 7

The story progresses, moving past the swift wedding and European honeymoon of the de Winters, and landing at their arrival at Manderley. This stately coastal mansion in England is as imposing as it is stunning to the new Mrs. de Winter. The whole household staff, headed by the butler, Frith, welcomes her, an event arranged by the stern-faced housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, against Maxim's wishes. Mrs. de Winter, though intimidated by her grand new surroundings, returns the formal greeting and follows Maxim inside where they are met by two friendly cocker spaniels. They have tea in the library—a room filled with the smell of old books and a view of the sea. As Maxim tends to his letters, Mrs. Danvers escorts Mrs. de Winter to her bedroom in the recently refurbished east wing, away from the sea view. Though Mrs. Danvers is polite and deferential, Mrs. de Winter can't shake off an uneasy feeling of underlying animosity from her. She feels a sense of relief when Maxim joins them for the rest of the house tour. Afterward, the couple heads downstairs for their evening meal. Settling into her new role and the grandeur that comes with it, Mrs. de Winter can't help but think about Rebecca, the previous Mrs. de Winter, whose shoes she has now filled.

chapter 8

In the subsequent days, the protagonist is lost in the enormous Manderley mansion. She frequently loses her path, needing the help of the household staff for guidance. During one such instance, she accidentally ventures into the murky, abandoned west wing and runs into the creepy Mrs. Danvers, leaving as quickly as she could. She is always on edge, paranoid about the possibility of the servants mocking her behind her back. The ghostly presence of the ideal and stunning Rebecca, her predecessor, continually looms over her.

chapter 9

The protagonist feels better after a visit from Maxim's sister, Beatrice, her husband Giles, and Manderley's manager, Frank Crawley. Even though she initially feels out of place, Beatrice, who is lively and sporty, makes her feel comfortable. Beatrice advises her to assert herself, especially with the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who she reveals, "simply adored Rebecca." She also suggests she buy new outfits and find a hobby, like horseback riding which is Beatrice's favorite pastime. As they leave, Beatrice notes how the protagonist is not what she anticipated, stating "you see," she says, "you are so very different from Rebecca."

chapter 10

Upon their company's exit, Maxim and the protagonist wander around the estate in the rain, along with Jasper, a spaniel. They explore a lovely valley, home to a stream and a bed of azaleas, a place Maxim dubs the "Happy Valley." The protagonist is captivated by this spot until it unexpectedly leads to a pebbly beach. Here, Jasper ventures down the rocky trail to the sea and encounters a clam digger. The protagonist seeks string from the man to tether Jasper but fails to communicate her need. She then scavenges twine from a nearby rundown boathouse to guide Jasper back. Upon reuniting with Maxim, they argue: the protagonist learns the beach and boathouse stir unpleasant memories for him, leading her to tearfully retreat indoors for tea. "Oh, God, what a fool I was to come back," Maxim utters bitterly.

chapter 11

Continuous rain brings local visitors to Manderley, seeking an introduction to its new lady. The protagonist reluctantly endures these visits and reciprocates some. She gathers more information about Rebecca, celebrated for her beauty, intelligence, charisma, and hosting abilities. After visiting the bishop's wife, she comes across Frank Crawley, enjoying his calm presence and going for a walk with him. She questions him about Rebecca, triggering his reluctance. Despite this, he reveals that the beach boathouse was once Rebecca’s, where she hosted "moonlight picnics, and--one thing and another." He indicates that she moored her boat at the boathouse, the same boat involved in her fatal drowning. He shares how her body was discovered miles away two months later, forcing Maxim to travel to an unfamiliar town to confirm her identity. As the protagonist confides her feelings of insecurity regarding her role as Manderley’s lady, Crawley becomes distressed. He advises her to "forget it, Mrs. de Winter, forget it, as he has done, thank heaven, and the rest of us. We none of us want to bring back the past, Maxim least of all."

chapter 12

Mrs. Danvers employs Clarice, an inexperienced local girl, as a maid for the novel's protagonist, an ideal match for the timid and uncertain new lady of Manderley. The protagonist grapples with her fresh responsibilities and inadvertently destroys a valuable glass statuette. She decides not to disclose the accident, tucking away the broken pieces inside a desk drawer. Once Mrs. Danvers holds a servant accountable for the missing ornament, the protagonist is compelled to confess her mistake and express regret to the housekeeper for her late confession. Her husband, Maxim, finds the situation amusing, but his wife is deeply upset; she confides in him about feeling unfit, uneducated, and ill-equipped for her duties as his spouse. Maxim attempts to comfort her, but by the end of their talk, she fears their marriage is falling apart.

chapter 13

As summer kicks off, Maxim departs for a London dinner, leaving the heroine to encounter Ben, a mentally impaired man who resides on a neighboring farm. Initially, Ben's nervousness around her is palpable, fueled by fears of being sent to an asylum. However, he soon relaxes and tells her, "you're not like the other one... tall and dark she was... She gave you the feeling of a snake. I seen her here with my own eyes..." He refers to a woman who had once threatened him with institutionalization. In an attempt to clarify, he asks, "She's gone now, ain't she?" but the heroine, baffled, says she doesn't understand who he's referring to, and returns to the house with Jasper. To her surprise, she finds a man, Jack Favell, visiting Mrs. Danvers upon her return. They both appear surprised when the heroine encounters them exiting the west wing, hinting at a secret meeting. Jack quickly recovers his composure, offering the heroine a ride in his sports car, behaving overly chivalrous. His behavior makes her uneasy, and once he departs, she contemplates if he could have been a burglar. Anxious, she ventures to the west wing to check for missing items.

chapter 14

The western wing is unoccupied and surprisingly dust-free. The protagonist finds herself in Rebecca's past room. She opens a window to disperse the stale scent when Mrs. Danvers appears. "You wanted to see the room," she cuts through the protagonist's weak justification for her presence. "Why have you never asked me to show it to you before?" She then guides her through every detail - Rebecca's bed, her clothing, all preserved as if expecting their owner. Mrs. Danvers then recalls the night Rebecca died. Everyone thought she was resting in the boathouse, her usual spot, only to discover her boat gone and debris floating in the water the next day. Mrs. Danvers then spooks the protagonist with her belief that Rebecca haunts them. "Do you think she can see us, talking to one another now?" She questions, "Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?" Scared, the protagonist quickly leaves, before collapsing onto her bed downstairs, feeling unwell.

chapter 15

The next day, the protagonist journeys with Beatrice to see Gran, Beatrice and Maxim's elderly grandmother. Beatrice reveals on the journey that Jack Favell, Rebecca's cousin, was a regular visitor at Manderley when Rebecca was alive. Gran, who is almost blind and extremely forgetful, is initially pleasant during the visit. However, she unexpectedly starts asking for Rebecca: "Why did not Maxim bring Rebecca?" she inquires. "I'm so fond of Rebecca. Where is dear Rebecca?" A horrified Beatrice promptly escorts the protagonist away. Upon her return to Manderley, she discovers that Maxim has returned from London and overhears him telling Mrs. Danvers, in a heated tone, not to let Jack Favell enter his house again.

chapter 16

Several weeks later, Maxim and the protagonist are entertaining guests at their home, Manderley. One guest, Lady Crowan, inquires about the traditional costume ball. After much deliberation, Maxim consents to hold the event, with Frank Crawley and Mrs. Danvers handling the event's planning. This event presents the protagonist with her first significant role as the lady of Manderley, stirring feelings of eager anticipation within her. As she ponders over her costume choice, Mrs. Danvers surprisingly offers her advice. Mrs. Danvers suggests the protagonist model her outfit after an 18th-century painting displayed in the stairwell of a beautiful young woman. She even proposes a skilled dressmaker in London to tailor the outfit. This unusual behaviour from Mrs. Danvers leaves the protagonist stunned but hopeful of a friendly relationship. After careful consideration, the protagonist decides to heed Mrs. Danvers' advice and chooses to model her costume after the woman in the painting.

chapter 17

As the costume ball nears, she keeps her outfit a secret, hoping to astound everyone. Giles and Beatrice come early on the night, engaging in conversation with Frank Crawley and Maxim while our protagonist changes upstairs with Clarice's help. She descends the staircase in her costume, assured of the dramatic impact. However, the reaction is not what she expects: Maxim pales and commands her to change out of the dress. Confused and upset, she retreats to her room, breaking down. Beatrice follows and reveals the distressing reason: she's inadvertently wearing the same dress Rebecca wore at her final ball. Beatrice suggests that Maxim thinks it's intentional. After some time, she musters the courage to rejoin the party. By now, the ball is in full throttle. The guests have been informed the dressmaker sent the wrong costume to account for her initial absence and lack of costume. Despite feeling self-conscious in a plain dress and making small talk, she gets through the night, envisioning everyone gossiping about her. The ball ends with fireworks on the lawn, and the guests leave. She heads to bed, exhausted and miserable, lying awake, hoping for Maxim to join her. However, he never shows up.

chapter 18

As a new day rises, shrouded in mist, the protagonist finds a supportive message from Beatrice, but Maxim is nowhere to be found. She tries reaching out to Frank Crawley at their administrative office, yet he also has no clue about Maxim's whereabouts. She confesses to Frank her fears about Maxim's lingering affection for Rebecca, but abruptly ends the call before he can respond. Taking a walk around the fog-filled premises, she spots Mrs. Danvers from the west wing windows. Gathering her courage, she decides to confront the housekeeper. Confrontation occurs in Rebecca's room, where she accuses Mrs. Danvers of orchestrating the current circumstances. Mrs. Danvers, looking worn out and sick, vehemently denies the accusation and accuses the protagonist of attempting to fill Rebecca's shoes. She insists that Maxim's heart still belongs to Rebecca. She then recounts adoringly about Rebecca's beauty, courage, perfectness, and her popularity among men. Her tone shifts, turning soft and trance-inducing, as she suggests the protagonist should leave since Maxim doesn't want her. The suggestion escalates to Mrs. Danvers encouraging her to end her life by jumping from the window, arguing there's nothing for her to live for. At the brink of considering suicide, the protagonist is snapped back to reality by the sound of gunfire from the nearby cove. A vessel has run aground near Manderley, and Maxim is heard rushing to the scene. This interrupts Mrs. Danvers' chilling persuasion.

chapter 19

Our protagonist ventures to the sea, leaving Mrs. Danvers behind. A boat has run aground two miles out, and divers are examining if it can be moved. Maxim is away, having taken a wounded sailor to a doctor. The protagonist spends most of her afternoon on the cliffs, watching the divers and tugboats attempting to free the vessel. Eventually, she returns to Manderley, only to find Maxim still away. The harbormaster visits her with news. The divers have discovered a second wrecked boat, the very one Rebecca had used on her last night. There is a corpse in it. Maxim finally arrives. The harbormaster shares his findings and leaves. Alone with her husband, the protagonist seeks forgiveness for her costume blunder, but Maxim dismisses her apology. "It's too late, my darling," he states. "We've lost out little chance of happiness." Confused, she inquires about his statement, leading him to reveal the shocking truth about Rebecca's demise - that the body is indeed Rebecca's. Maxim confesses that he killed her in the boathouse, floated her body out on the boat, and let it sink into the depths of the cove.

chapter 20

In the library, the couple delve into the reality of Maxim's previous marriage to Rebecca. Despite her attractive and smart facade, Rebecca was evil, self-centered, and untruthful. Their marriage, a facade from the start, began with a honeymoon in Monte Carlo. At a viewpoint where Maxim would later take the second Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca laid out her demands: she would play the dutiful wife and mistress of Manderley as long as she was allowed to live as she wished. Maxim, valuing his family name and desiring to prevent scandal, conceded. For years, the world believed their marriage was idyllic, and Rebecca made Manderley a renowned estate. However, she spent her time in London among dubious acquaintances or in the boathouse with her numerous lovers. She had an insatiable sexual desire; her cousin Jack Favell was one lover, but she also attempted to seduce Giles and Frank. Maxim allowed the debauchery to endure to maintain appearances. However, when Rebecca insinuated she was pregnant, he was incensed, leading to fatal consequences. One evening, he went to her beach cottage armed, aiming to scare off Favell. Upon finding Rebecca alone, he threatened to divorce her unless she ended her affairs. Rebecca scoffed, asserting that he couldn't prove her infidelities legally: he lacked evidence, the servants were loyal to her, and their high-society friends would support her. Rebecca then revealed she might be carrying Favell's child, assumed to be Maxim's, and intended to raise it as the Manderley heir. This news caused Maxim to snap, leading him to shoot her. He disposed of her body by locking it in her sailboat and sinking it at sea. When a female body later surfaced in a nearby town, Maxim falsely identified it as Rebecca's to avert suspicion, even though her real remains were still in the sunken boat. After hearing the story, the second Mrs. de Winter reassures Maxim that their situation isn't dire: only they know the truth; he can claim he misidentified the previous body, with no evidence pointing towards foul play. Just then, the phone rings.

chapter 21

Local magistrate Colonel Julyan phones Maxim, suggesting that there may have been an error in the prior year's body identification. It appears the authorities have deduced whose remains are in the capsized boat. A journalist attempts to contact Maxim, but he curtly ends the call. Post-dinner, Maxim and the protagonist share a lengthy, silent embrace in the darkness. The following day sees a drastic change in Manderley. The protagonist asserts her authority over the house for the first time, taking control from Mrs. Danvers, introducing new meal plans and exercising her role as lady of the manor. The de Winters host Colonel Julyan and Frank Crawley for lunch, during which they discuss the impending inquest. Rebecca's body has been verified as the one discovered in the boat. Colonel Julyan seems to believe it was a tragic accident - a sudden gust of wind capsizing the boat while Rebecca was below deck. After the Colonel departs, Maxim reveals to the protagonist that no bullet wound was found on the skeleton. He concludes this means the bullet must have only passed through soft tissue, implying his secret is safe for the time being.

chapter 22

The next day, the media is abuzz with the scandal, painting Maxim in a cruel light for wedding a young woman while his deceased wife's grave was yet new. Later in the day, the pair finds themselves in town for the inquiry, where they spot Favell and Mrs. Danvers. Initially, it seems that the coroner might rule Rebecca's death as accidental. However, the testimony from the craftsman of Rebecca's boat shifts the narrative. He states that upon inspecting the vessel's wreckage, he discovered holes that Maxim supposedly made on purpose - insinuating that the boat's sinking was no accident. This revelation turns the inquiry tense, and Maxim is questioned about the nature of his relationship with his late wife. Overwhelmed, the heroine faints and is led out.

chapter 23

The coroner finally rules Rebecca's death a suicide for unspecified reasons, bringing temporary relief to all. Maxim, Frank, and the protagonist return to Manderley. Maxim leaves again to attend Rebecca's interment in a nearby churchyard. In his absence, a heavily intoxicated Favell barges in. He is incredibly impolite to the protagonist, insinuating that he knows Rebecca's death was not a suicide and that he is determined to have justice served. Maxim, accompanied by Frank, returns and demands Favell's immediate departure. However, Favell reveals a note from Rebecca sent on her death night, inviting him to the cottage for an important discussion. "Not the sort of note you write when you're going to commit suicide, is it?" he questions, proceeding to blackmail Maxim with threats of going to the police unless he gets a yearly income from the de Winter estate. Frank, distressed, advises the duo to submit to Favell's demand, but Maxim declines. He decides to call Colonel Julyan to resolve the issue immediately. Upon the magistrate's arrival, a drunken Favell jests and instructs him to apprehend Maxim for Rebecca's murder.

chapter 24

Favell confesses to Colonel Julyan about his romantic relationship with Rebecca, claiming they intended to wed and implying Maxim murdered her in a fit of jealousy. Favell's inebriated state, however, raises suspicion in the Colonel, who asks for evidence or any potential witnesses to substantiate Favell's claims. Favell suggests involving Ben. The protagonist, recalling Ben's mysterious remarks concerning a "dark lady" who "won't come back again," becomes anxious that Ben may have been a spectator to the alleged crime and could testify to that effect. However, Ben appears visibly frightened, nervously clutching his cap, denying seeing anything, and even claiming to have no prior knowledge of Favell.

chapter 25

Colonel Julyan questions Favell's ability to confirm his relationship with Rebecca. Favell retorts sharply, "Can't I?" and calls on Mrs. Danvers. The senior housekeeper confirms to the magistrate that Favell and Rebecca were indeed involved, but she clarifies Rebecca didn't care for him; "Lovemaking was a game with her, only a game," she asserts fiercely, on the brink of losing control. Probing for more valuable information, Colonel Julyan inquires whether Rebecca might have had a reason to end her life. Mrs. Danvers discounts the possibility but reveals she has Rebecca's planner which details her final day in London. Retrieved, the planner reveals that Rebecca had a scheduled meeting with a certain Baker, identified as a gynecologist. The group, excluding Mrs. Danvers, agrees to travel to London to question him the following day.

chapter 26

The protagonist and Maxim are in fear of being discovered. They believe Dr. Baker will reveal Rebecca's pregnancy and subsequently, Maxim's motive for murdering her out of jealousy. They spend the night "like guilty lovers," waking up early to journey to London, joined by a now sober Favell and the Colonel. Once they meet Dr. Baker, he sifts through his records until he recalls Rebecca who had visited him using the pseudonym "Mrs. Danvers." He shares with the group that Rebecca was battling an incurable and inoperable form of cancer. Upon her request for an honest prognosis, he informed her she had a few months to live. Additionally, he mentions that Rebecca was incapable of having children due to a deformed uterus.

chapter 27

Colonel Julyan sees a clear reason for Rebecca's suicide, and suggests Maxim and his wife depart from the area until rumors fade. Favell leaves, disturbed, questioning if cancer is communicable. Maxim and his wife start their journey back to Manderley. As night descends, they pause at an inn. Maxim calls home and discovers Mrs. Danvers has disappeared. This unsettles him and he opts to drive through the night, foregoing their stay at the inn. His wife sleeps during the journey, awakening from a disturbing dream where she sees Rebecca's reflection instead of her own. She stays awake for the remainder of the drive, believing she sees the sunrise at one point. However, the light is from the west, over the hills they're approaching. They crest a hill and see Manderley below, engulfed in flames.

Enjoying this summary?
Buy the book! (it's better)