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In this still shot, taken from Mrs. Danvers’s introduction scene, we see at the forefront of the image Mrs. Danvers staring into the audience with a stone cold emotionless facial expression. Her stillness emits dominant energy that frightens Mrs. De Winter. In the background, there are blurred figures of Male house workers standing directly behind Mrs. Danvers. While Mrs. Danvers is the easiest figure to see and register as the conductor or guard of forceful dominance, she is actually both a product and an executor of male desire to master masculinity. This works perfectly well to emphasize Hitchcock’s obsession in displaying what is present but unseen and what is seen but not realized consciously.
Mrs. Danver’s character functions as a representation of female reenactment of patriarchal abuse by the woman onto the fellow woman. This is a theme that is continuously represented through Mrs. De Winter’s relationship with Mrs. Danvers. Mrs. Danvers essentially serves as the grader of Mr. De Winter’s mastery of womanhood and sexuality, an accomplishment that Rebecca has achieved in her 36 years of practicing the acts of womanhood while refusing castration. Although an adult woman is not what Maximum wants, Mrs. De Winter still must teach herself how to be like Rebecca and act in the mature ways she does. Just as Rebecca holds Mrs. De Winter hostage with her haunting intangible presence, Mrs.Danvers holds Mrs. De winter hostage with her physical surveillance and tricks that humiliate Mrs. De Winter.
From the layering of the figures in this shot, it could be read that Mrs. Danvers serves to represent the essentialized combat between women. With this, there is an emergence of a sort of maternal version of the Oedipus complex where Mrs. De Winter is both fixated on replacing Rebecca as the sexual maternal figure of the house and also being constantly infantilized by Maximum.
Within this relationship dynamic, there is a paradox of patriarchal rules of femininity that seek to give men the satisfaction of re-asserting dominance in the case that a woman attempts to refuse castration. In other words, men crave for women to rebel and so that they may teach them the correct way of behaving. They crave to discipline their wives so that they may fulfill their parental desires. Mrs. Danvers mimics the male need to fetishize women’s beauty and the performance of parental discipline.
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