Madly in Love: The Mental Threat of Homosexuality in Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940)

In: Re/Presenting Gender and Love
Author: Gesine Wegner

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This chapter uses queer and feminist narrative theory in order to demonstrate how closely homosexuality has been linked to mental illness in Hitchcock’s Rebecca. It aims to disclose aspects of female homosexuality and its relation to mental illness that other queer readings of Rebecca have so far failed to notice. By focusing on the narrative of Mrs. Danvers, it will become clear that this particular character breaks most drastically with traditional gender roles and heterosexuality. At the same time, Mrs. Danvers is shown to continuously develop features of mental illness. By bringing concepts of gender, sexuality and disabilities studies into the analysis, I am going to identify Mrs. Danvers not only as a queer, but also as a mentally ill character. The traditional features of madness associated with her character are argued to disclose a causal relationship between homosexuality, mental illness and its social construction.