Texts show us how experience often changes people. ‘Rebecca’, a novel written by Daphne Du Maurier illustrates this point. Throughout the engrossing story, the characters experience much and as a result, the characters undergo both temporary and life-altering changes to their thoughts, beliefs, and behavior. At the beginning of the novel, the narrator is the insecure, shy, and inexperienced paid companion of Mrs. Van Hopper.
However, when she marries Maxim De Winter her life totally changes. She enters a new and unknown world as she becomes part of the elite class of society. She also has to cope with the many responsibilities and expectations imposed on her as the wife of the famous Maxim De Winter.
This experience changes her into a worldly, more confident woman, but however, this is a gradual development. For example, early in the novel, the narrator has unrealistic romantic fantasies of her and Maxim. However, after Maxim’s blasé marriage proposal the reality of the situation begins to dawn on her:
‘And he went on eating his marmalade as though everything was natural. In books, men knelt to women and it was moonlight. Not at breakfast, not like this.’
Here Mrs. De Winter changes with this experience. Her ideas of love which are based on works of fiction are quashed when her romantic expectations remain unfulfilled. Although her unblemished perception of love begins to crumble in this instance, later it is rebuilt by the love that she and Maxim share.
On the other hand, Maxim’s experience with the narrator is somewhat different. At the beginning of the novel, he seeks no romantic involvement but seeks companionship. The experience of close communication with another human being, after his self-imposed isolation after Rebecca’s death, changes Maxim.
When Maxim takes the narrator for a drive in his car, he tells her of Manderley, the sun setting, and the nearby sea. At this moment, Manderley is the most precious thing to him in the entire world, and he chooses to share this with the narrator. This time spent with Mrs. De Winter changes him. He realizes that he needed companionship and perhaps unconditional love, both of which could be attained by marrying the narrator.
In ‘Rebecca’, these two characters share a major life-altering experience. Maxim confesses to Mrs. De Winter that he had murdered Rebecca and that Rebecca had not died accidentally in a boating accident as she was led to believe. She learns that Maxim did not idolize Rebecca but despised her. These facts initially send Mrs. De Winter into shock, but afterward, she feels relieved.
This wave of relief overrides the fact that Maxim is a murderer. She now feels free of Rebecca’s legacy; Maxim loves her and no-one else. After his confession, Mrs. De Winter says: ‘It would not be I, I, I any longer; it would be we, it would be us.’ The change in thought and behavior because of this experience has been great.
Maxim’s reaction to his own confession differs slightly from his wife’s. After he tells the narrator his darkest secret, he begins to express his feelings and overall he communicates more intimately with his wife. With his biggest vulnerability now exposed, Maxim now feels free to love her. After telling Mrs. De Winter that he is a murderer, Maxim’s change in behavior is definitely noticeable:
‘I love you so much,’ he whispered. ‘So much.’
This is what I have wanted him to say every day and every night … now he is saying it at last.’
Here Maxim has changed for the better. His dark and brooding nature is now balanced by the love which he has for his wife.
The novel ‘Rebecca’ shows us how experience often changes people. The reader follows the narrator’s evolvement from an insecure, shy girl to one who is confident, strong, and loving. The author also shows Maxim’s internal struggle against ‘darkness’ and his overcoming of it through finding love.
By the end of the novel, Maxim is a caring and loving person, a contrast to the moody, brooding character portrayed in the first half of the novel. These developments have only occurred because of the harsh experiences that both characters have encountered. Now they appear to be stronger people for it.
In conclusion, texts do show us that experience often changes people. This is so because literature reflects reality. Conditioning is inescapable as our experiences mold us into the people that we are today.