Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2021

Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

English Literary Studies-BA




Karen Steigman

First Committee Member

Karen Steigman

Second Committee Member

Margaret Koehler

Third Committee Member

Cynthia Laurie-Rose


Rebecca, Psychoanalysis, Hitchcock, Film Theory, Gender Theory, Mothers

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | Higher Education | Visual Studies | Women's Studies


This thesis explores how Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) depicts inadequate and detrimental examples of mother-figures in cinema through the characters Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca. While Mrs. Danvers’ oppressive control over the Manderley manor and her hardened demeanor towards the second Mrs. De Winter mark her as a sadistic mother-figure, Rebecca’s promiscuity, narcissism, and lack of empathy reflect the traits of a self-indulgent mother-figure who puts her needs first. Both expressions of motherhood serve to perpetuate the disavowal of mothers in film. This negative characterization serves to exemplify the long-held tradition of mothering as a source of trouble, which is largely seen in classical Hollywood cinema. My essay considers two contradicting film genres of horror/thriller and melodrama to conclude that Rebecca works as a perfect blend of each genre and is a compelling means for analyzation when regarding representation of the mother-figure in film.