I despised the beginning of Rebecca, a tedious, drawn-out slog through the ruins of an English estate. And I felt scorn for the narrator, too, a fearful lower-class woman who married up and hid from the servants so they wouldn’t catch her behaving inappropriately. She constantly felt she didn’t measure up to her husband’s first wife, Rebecca, a beautiful, fearless woman.
I wanted to shout at her: “Suck it up, girl! Just stop worrying about every little thing!”
Then about page 144, it hit me. She is me.
(I know, “She is I.”)
The narration that was getting on my nerves could have come from inside my own head (if I lived on an upper-class country estate surrounded by servants), double-guessing myself and being uncertain about every little thing–being timid (and squeamish, too).
Here, the narrator tries to explain to her husband why she hates visiting people, a social obligation she is forcing herself through:
“I try every day, every time I go out or meet anyone new. I’m always making efforts. You don’t understand. It’s all very well for you, you’re used to that sort of thing. I’ve not been brought up to it.”
“Rot,” said Maxim, “it’s not a question of bringing up, as you put it. It’s a matter of application. You don’t think I like calling on people, do you? It bores me stiff. But it has to be done, in this part of the world.”
“We’re not talking about boredom,” I said, “there’s nothing to be afraid of in being bored. If I was just bored it would be different. I hate people looking me up and down as though I were a prize cow.”
“Who looks you up and down?”
“All the people down here. Everybody.”
“What does it matter if they do? It gives them some interest in life.”
“Why must I be the one to supply the interest, and have all the criticism?”
“Because life at Manderlay is the only thing that ever interests anybody down here.”
“What a slap in the eye I must be to them then.”
It was exciting later in the book when she grew some cojones and started talking back!
Since I started this blog, I have been working to get out of my comfort zone. My internal monologue has changed some for the better. Why should I feel fearful about walking into a room? I know I shouldn’t, and yet…
As for getting out of my comfort zone, I see that it’s not really a matter of getting out of my comfort zone, but of expanding the boundaries bit by bit so that I have a little more breathing room.
For the rest of Rebecca, I was hooked, but it did turn into a bit of a soap opera toward the end. It was a selection by my local library’s classics book club, the Cheshire Cats. Get it?
- Related post: Join a Classics Book Club. (I still haven’t gotten back to Anna Karenina.)
- #75. 101 things in 1001 days. Read at least 15 classics I’ve never read. (1/15 completed).
Have you found yourself identifying with any literary characters?