A great article in The Scotsman called Manderley Revisited deals with Daphne du Maurier, whose one hundredth birthday is coming up on May 13. The article suggests in a couple of places that Rebecca is a twist on Jane Eyre. I can see that. (Spoilers coming. You've been warned.) In Rebecca the unnamed Jane figure actually marries the Rochester figure and learns the secret of the first wife later. There's a fire, and the Jane figure becomes caretaker to the Rochester figure.
Now that it's been pointed out to me, I can see the parallels.
The writer of the article talks about reading Rebecca as a teenager. (At the time, I liked it more than I liked Jane Eyre.) These days, while I often read about Jane Eyre, I don't hear a lot about Rebecca. Unless, of course, the BBC has done a new production that is scooped up by Masterpiece Theatre.
I don't see the second Mrs. de Winter as being as powerful a figure as Jane Eyre, myself. But for teenage girls of a certain generation (or two or three) that was probably her attraction. We were not powerful figures and were delighted to see someone weak and meek like ourselves get the fellow and come out on top in the end. Though I do remember not envying the second Mrs. de Winter her ending. She seemed to be facing a lot of work to me. I have, I guess, always had a lazy streak.
I wonder if today's girls who are reading things like The Gossip Girl or Kiki Strike need to identify with a heroine so bland she doesn't have a name.
Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for the link.