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 behaviour.

In 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 were 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.
In 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 the Mrs. De Winter
changes him. He realises 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 idolise Rebecca but despised her. These facts initially send Mrs. De Winter into
shock, but afterwards 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 behaviour 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 behaviour 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 mould
us into the people that we are today.

(725 words)
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