A Close Study on Maurier’s and Hitchcock’s Use of Symbol and Characterization in “Rebecca” to Show the Representation of Class Conflicts

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In Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” and in its film adaptation directed by Alfred Hitchcock, class conflicts are represented through characterization and the use of symbol. Class conflict is the tension or antagonism which exists in society due to competing socioeconomic interests between people of different classes. In “Rebecca”, the narrator and the protagonist, X is always regarded as inferior and

According to World English Dictionary, “symbol” is “an object” used in a text “to stand for or suggest something else with which it is associated either explicitly or in some more subtle way”. In Rebecca, Maurier uses symbols to implicitly show the representation of conflicts between the upper class and the lower-middle class. The narrator, X, is originally a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper, a wealthy yet gossipy, mean and vulgar American woman. She is still trapped in her low social status even after her marriage with Maxim de Winter, a rich and intelligent widower. She is seriously suffering from inferiority complex and cannot help comparing herself with Maxim’s dead wife, Rebecca. Rebecca’s handwriting is one of the symbols Maurier and Hitchcock use in the text and in the film accordingly to aid the manifestation of class conflicts. Accidentally seeing Rebecca’s elegant and beautiful handwriting in her appointment book, X feels inferior that she herself is merely a lower-middle class woman when Rebecca is, on the other hand, an educated upper-class lady who is so capable of writing elegantly. Other than Rebecca’s handwriting, the monogram “R” sewn on her pillow case, denoting the initial of her name Rebecca, is also a symbol used both in the text and in the film to represent the class conflicts between her and X. This monogram symbolizes Rebecca’s high social status that her personal belongings are so unique and tailor-made with her own name sewn on them. Rebecca’s presence is felt everywhere even though she has died. It is like she is still the mistress of...
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