Patriarchal Hauntings: Re-reading Villainy and Gender in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
AbstractCriticism of Daphne du Maurier’s popular classic Rebecca (1938) can be divided into two mainstream interpretations. On the one hand, it was traditionally marketed as a gothic romance where the hero and the heroine conquered the evil women that separated them. On the other, certain feminist critics have recently provided a very different view of the story, aligning it with gothic narratives that deal with the dangers women suffer under the patriarchal control of their husbands. This would imply that du Maurier’s novel should not be read as a traditional romance that promotes patriarchy, as the former interpretation suggested. In this article, I propose, through a Gothic Studies and a Gender Studies reading, that villainy in this novel is not exclusively linked to gender and, therefore, the victim and abuser statuses cannot be equated to femininity and masculinity, respectively. Instead, I argue that villainy in the novel is inextricably connected to being in a powerful position within patriarchy, and that it is the desire to maintain this position and perpetuate the patriarchal system that leads the main characters (men and women) to commit acts of villainy.
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