Daphne DuMaurier's Narrator in “Rebecca” – A challenge
Apologies for the long post. I'm sure this topic has been addressed by name enthusiasts frequently since the book was published in 1938, but has anyone read the novel Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (or seen the Hitchcock film) and wondered what the narrator's first name could be? DuMaurier notably never reveals it in the book, but alludes to it tantalizingly with lines like the narrator saying, "But my name was on the envelope, and spelt correctly, an unusual thing," and someone telling her, "You have a very lovely and unusual name." Instead, the narrator is only called by names like Mademoiselle, Madame, or Mrs. de Winter.
DuMaurier has said in “The Rebecca Notebook” (Memoires) that she never gave the narrator a name because she could not think of one, which I find somewhat hard to believe since she clearly has an idea of a name or name style in mind. I think DuMaurier did not give the narrator a name in order to emphasize the influence Rebecca (the first wife) had over her (the second wife). Rebecca so overshadowed her that she doesn't even get a name.
So I can't help but wonder what kind of name the narrator might have. There are several lines of evidence that could point to a name. (Also disclosure, that I got too excited thinking of what her name could be that I wanted to ask here before I even finished the book—I know the ending, but let’s not include spoilers in case someone else is interested in reading it. That being said, there may be other lines of evidence further into the book that I haven’t gotten to yet.)
Lines of Evidence:
The book is supposed to take place in the mid-1920s (per DuMaurier’s Memoirs), and the narrator is young, (I’m thinking 18-20 years old). So the name is “lovely and unusual” for 1900’s era.
The narrator responds to the "unusual name" line with, "My father was a lovely and unusual person," implying that either her father named her, or she is named for him.
The book revolves around their home at Manderley in Cornwall, a home the narrator has been familiar with since childhood, suggesting that she is from the area, so perhaps her name could be Celtic, Anglo, Roman, (maybe Welsh?) in origin. DuMaurier’s notes in “The Rebecca Notebook” say that the narrator’s father was a doctor in Eastbourne (in the book they just say that he is deceased).
(DuMaurier herself was born in London and lived her adult life in Cornwall, which I'm sure influenced her book, maybe she wrote some of herself into the character. She channeled or built off of her own ideas of jealousy of a first marriage from her own life since her husband had once been previously engaged to another woman before they were married.)
So I, being unfamiliar with British baby naming trends at the turn of the 20th century, could only think of the name Bronwen, which is Welsh. I like it for this character because the meaning white breasted/complexion or pure-hearted emphasizes the naivete that fits her character. (and with Rebecca's name meaning tied or bound, it makes perfect sense that the name was chosen because she won't release her hold over them, even in death). Plus the narrator and her future husband have an on-going inside joke about the meaning of companion as a "bosom friend" so a name with bosom in the meaning somehow in my mind makes it more fitting for her.
I’m not sure that Bronwen is tricky to spell (maybe alternatives of Bronwyn or Branwen?). I’m not aware of this name being a feminine version of a man’s name, so I doubt it’s named for her father. Was Bronwen unusual in 1900? I didn’t see anything on BNW, but britishbabynames.com says that there were 978 Bronwens born in 1900 (about the peak of this name). Perhaps it is too common then? Almost 1,000 births seems like a lot for back then.
Do any of you have ideas and know more of the history of that area for names? I’m curious to hear your ideas!
Sun, 03/10/2019 - 7:23pm