Rebecca and Lesbian Desire

The nature of the relationship between Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers has long been a source of speculation.  Many readers and scholars have suggested that the novel hints at the possibility of a lesbian relationship between the two women (Horner and Zlosnik 109).  Mrs. Danvers is certainly obsessed with Rebecca.  In this passage, Mrs. Danvers gives the narrator a tour of Rebecca’s old room and shows her Rebecca’s clothing:

She looked beautiful in this velvet. Put it against your face. It's soft, isn't it? You can feel it, can't
you? The scent is still fresh, isn't it? You could almost imagine she had only just taken it off. I would always know when she had been before me in a room. There would be a little whiff of her scent in the room. These are her underclothes, in this drawer. (du Maurier 172)

Mrs. Danvers also suggests that Rebecca had a special affection for her and quotes Rebecca as saying, “You made me better than anyone, Danny … I won’t have anyone but you” (du Maurier 171).  There are additional hints that Rebecca may not be completely heterosexual.  Mrs. Danvers tells Favell and Maxim that Rebecca “despised all men” (du Maurier 346).  When Maxim reveals to Mrs. du Winter that he murdered Rebecca, he tried to convince Mrs. du Winter that he never loved Rebecca because she “was not even normal” (du Maurier 275).  At the time Rebecca was written, homosexuality was still illegal in Great Britain and would remain so until 1967 (“LGBT Rights”).  However, laws against homosexuality only applied specifically to same-sex acts between men; no laws were ever passed forbidding lesbian activity (“LGBT Rights”). Even thought a lesbian relationship might not have been illegal at the time, it still would have violated social norms.

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