Fiendish Fridays #6: Mrs Danvers

Fiendish Fridays is hosted here at She Reads Novels, profiling some of our favourite literary villains. You can see a complete list of previous Fiends and suggest one of your own here.

This week’s Fiend is a controversial one – she is often cited as one of literature’s greatest female villains, but some people don’t consider her to be a villain at all. What do you think?

#6 – Friday 19 March 2010: Mrs Danvers

Name: Mrs Danvers

Appears in: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Who is she? Mrs Danvers is the housekeeper at Manderley, the house where Maxim de Winter lived with his wife Rebecca before her tragic death. When Maxim brings home his second wife whom he has met in Monte Carlo, Mrs Danvers is not happy!

What is she like? The character was famously portrayed by Judith Anderson who received an Oscar nomination for her role in the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film. In the book she is described as ‘someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black, whose prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes gave her a skull’s face, parchment-white, set on a skeleton’s frame’.

What makes her a Friday Fiend? She does her best to make the second Mrs de Winter unwelcome at Manderley by constantly undermining her confidence and making her the target of some cruel tricks, causing her to feel inferior to Rebecca in every way.

Redeeming features: Her devotion and loyalty to Rebecca even after her death can be seen as an admirable quality and is the reason for her behaving the way she does.

Have you read Rebecca? What do you think about this week’s Friday Fiend?

2 thoughts on “Fiendish Fridays #6: Mrs Danvers

  1. Emily says:

    Rebecca is one of my favorite books. Mrs. Danvers is definitely a fiend. I don’t know if her devotion to Rebecca is entirely a redeeming quality. Rebecca WAS a sociopath. This book pulls me in every time I read it, and I totally buy in to the whole Rebecca was so wonderful, beautiful, and perfect characterization even though I know what gets revealed about her in the end. Great pick!

  2. Helen says:

    Yes, maybe Rebecca wasn’t entirely deserving of Mrs Danvers’ devotion! I like to look for both the good and bad in a character, though – some of the best villains in literature are the more complex ones, who have some kind of motivation for the way they behave rather than just being totally evil.
    Rebecca is one of my favourite books too, by the way. 🙂

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