THE DEEP ONES: "The Doll" by Daphne Du Maurier

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THE DEEP ONES: "The Doll" by Daphne Du Maurier

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nov. 3, 2017, 8:09am

The Doll is a great story. In fact, all the stories in the 2011 collection are worthwhile reads.

Editat: nov. 8, 2017, 9:27am

Julio might be "ghastly" to the narrator, but Rebecca certainly doesn't see him that way. He seems to be her ideal man, which is probably the most uncomfortable component here. After the narrator's initial obsession becomes apparent, the finish is doubly shocking with its blatant perversion, especially in such details as Julio's "wet" mouth and the fact that he - it - isn't a mere mannequin, but instead is "something worked by screws".

This might be considered an early tale by Du Maurier, but she was 30 when it was published. I'm always captured by her strong and involving style, which is also on display in the other tales in the book, as pgmcc notes.

I was just finishing Charles Stross's The Annihilation Score when I read Dame Daphne's tale. Funny that both happen to feature cursed female violinists.

nov. 8, 2017, 9:57am

Our narrator is rather creepy. Part of it may be that I'm reading it through the lens of 2017 social mores, but his fantasy about strangling Rebecca is surely creepy by any standards.

Not that Rebecca comes across as particularly nice either: if she indeed cannot love a man of flesh and blood, she's got no business leading the narrator on. I don't get the impression that du Maurier particularly wants us to sympathize with either.

nov. 8, 2017, 4:03pm

As this wasn't published until 2011 it's impossible to say how it would have been received by a contemporary audience. I suspect though, that the focus would have been on the "weird love rival". As with KentonSem and AndreasJ, although I had in mind the "uncanny valley" aspect of dolls and mannequins, which was (although not named as such yet) in the culture in the '30s and '40s (e.g. Hans Bellmer's doll, the Hugo sequence in the film Dead of Night; and current concerns about sex robots, internet porn addiction, and so on, I too found myself focusing more on the psychologies of both main characters.

I think Du Maurier is trying to play fair by both of them - they're both unable to control their passion (but I agree that by 2017 Mores, right would be on Rebecca's side).

nov. 8, 2017, 4:26pm

I couldn't help but entertain a darkly comical notion that Rebecca and Julio had actually eloped in defiance of then-current mores.

nov. 8, 2017, 10:38pm

Here's a nice, if brief, piece from the NYT not too long ago.

nov. 8, 2017, 11:11pm

Gah. I know that the author of the MS in the story isn't supposed to be a sympathetic character, but Du Maurier made his writing so vivid that it evoked real memories of sexual infatuations from my own young adulthood.

nov. 9, 2017, 3:32am

I did a bit of research on when the stories collected in The Doll anthology were written and it turned out Du Maurier was between 20 and 22 when she wrote them. These stories show a very mature awareness of relationships for one so young.

nov. 9, 2017, 9:25am

>9 pgmcc:

All the more impressive, then! In the NYT article linked up above, she refers to herself at age 21 as "only a silly sheltered girl in a dress, knowing nothing at all". Her writing says otherwise.

I'm glad I pulled down the book for this tale, because the first story in it is "East Wind". I had forgotten the title but kept remembering the story whenever I thought of Du Maurier. Good to re-read it. It's kind of like that old song "Brandy" by Looking Glass gone straight to hell.

This article contains a bit of interesting detail on "The Doll":

nov. 9, 2017, 4:52pm

I was reminded of that old saw about the Devil and the fiddle ...

nov. 9, 2017, 9:38pm

The chief and enduring impression of the story is the breathless, insistent mania that drives the narrator and his confession. Not only the word choice but the rhythm, the breaks and fragments, the propulsion that seems to have the narrator more focused on his inner state than on the subject of his obsession.

What is it with the name "Rebecca" that du Maurier used it twice for such memorable and central characters?

nov. 10, 2017, 1:03am

>12 elenchus: What is it with the name "Rebecca" that du Maurier used it twice for such memorable and central characters?

I don't know, but it causes a sort of mental friction for me because my sister's name happens to be Rebecka.

Good point about the narrator's real focus being on his own inner state. In some other book a character was said to be "in love with being in love" - I guess he's obsessed with being obsessed.

nov. 20, 2017, 11:55am

Du Maurier was clever to lead the reader to believe this would be a simple story about an obsessed man. I found myself just waiting for the moment he would snap and murder Rebecca and then the story would wrap up with his remorse or lack of... I should have given du Maurier more credit than that.

>12 elenchus: I was also wondering about to use of Rebecca again. She sure did like that name.

nov. 20, 2017, 3:20pm

>14 mstrust:

I didn't expect the narrator to murder her; I didn't guess what her secret would turn out to be, but I swiftly came to expect we'd learn something shocking about her.

nov. 20, 2017, 10:35pm

I liked this one too.

At first, with Rebecca's reputed connection to Hungary, I thought we were going to get a vampire tale.

And what to make about Rebecca's wondering whether it's ok to like to hurt the one you love? Is she mad and projecting human qualities on Julio? Talking about the narrator?

Is her possible Jewish origins to hint at a version of the Golem? She seems rather machine-like herself with her technical perfection and erect posture when playing the violin.

Or is the "something worked by screws" really accurate and really just a metaphor or an mistaken inference by a distraught, half-mad narrator?

Is Julio a creature and not a mechanism? Does Rebecca share his nature?

I think the majority reading is correct. Julio's a machine, but there's enough ambiguity here to make me wonder.

nov. 21, 2017, 5:23am

>12 elenchus: - What is it with the name "Rebecca" that du Maurier used it twice for such memorable and central characters?

I got this from Wikipedia:

... the name means "snare", "noose", "tied up", "secured", and even "beautifully ensnaring".

Also, did, the biblical Rebecca, wife of Isaac, strike some sort of cord with her?

Editat: nov. 21, 2017, 6:04pm

>16 RandyStafford:

At first, with Rebecca's reputed connection to Hungary, I thought we were going to get a vampire tale.

Yes - now that you mention it! I did get a slight vibe that whatever was to happen might somehow be related to Old World folklore. Rebecca is not only well-traveled, but she is a fine musician to boot. Perhaps a member of Bohemian society that was still fleeing Europe? She's not exactly Dracula (although her attachment to Budapest might ring an alarm bell!), but she still seems a bit odd. Later on in the story, Julio brought Olimpia from Hoffman's "The Sandman" to mind. Julio is nowhere near as personable, of course, but this still provides a further echo of Europe for me.

>17 alaudacorax:

Additionally, Du Maurier noted that “The name Rebecca stood out black and strong, the tall and sloping R dwarfing the other letters." The following article provides some further detail:

Editat: feb. 1, 2020, 2:25pm

>11 elenchus: That made me laugh, since one of my first thoughts was the song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia (he was looking for a soul to steal...).

Having read three by du Maurier last year, with three more waiting in the wings, this made for an intriguing interlude. More due to the author's age, and as mentioned, her remarkable observations as a young 20-something. My favourite thus far is not Rebecca or even My Cousin Rachel, but a lesser known one, Jamaica Inn. I needed a long scorching shower after that one to wash away the sludge and silt. I am looking forward to Mary Anne, The House on the Strand, Frenchman's Creek, etc. I might seek out more short stories after that.

Aside from the story, which makes me nauseous if I ponder it too long, two glaring elements materialized in my mind. First, that she absolutely was a vampire or that Julio was. I was disappointed that all those red herrings lured me right in. And second, the fixation was fully in his mind, one-way, ie. stalker mentality. That night porter would have had bite maks in no time for letting a guy in at midnight!? My son had a female stalker in high school and nothing about it was funny. He had no cell phone so she called the house leaving no messages up to 40x daily for months. I think they hauled her off in a straight-jacket because within a year she'd been 'removed' from not just his classes but from the school and perhaps the town. Point being, for the male main character to have this obsession of a female, with or without her knowledge, was the tipping point for me because of the female author's ability to fill his head with the raging storm of conflicting emotions. Then to let it (wanting to hurt those we love) be voiced aloud by the vixen toying with him, was such a slap in the face, exactly her aim, causing maximum damage. Her childish behavior, her boyish figure, pale face, Kaa eyes, insincere smile, fevered playing, etc. Had she not kissed him the way she did, it might have morphed into a fond memory. The look/sound/smell of her was one thing, but the feel/ taste of her is what drove him to despair, knowing she felt nada and just wanted to wind him up. That she did. This was quite a feat for Daphne to express. This unusual form of jealousy feeding a murderous hatred. Why he thought of strangling her with that red scarf early on, I haven't sorted out yet. Why was she always in red, was it like a matador cape in the bull ring , since Julio wore Spanish pants?

I didn't imagine Julio so much as a machine or lifesize doll (of 16? zoinks), but more as a cross between a ventriloquist dummy and a marionette. I like mimes, as mentioned elsewhere, and clowns don't seem menacing but I choose not to watch much overt horror. I much prefer something like puking pumpkins in The House With a Clock in Its Walls (2018)! Du Maurier's precise description helped me take its face more seriously, and I really was waiting for the dummy to come to life and attack after the inopportune intrusion. The emptied sparse surroundings gave a vacuum feel to the ending. There's a scene in The Winter of Our Discontent by Steinbeck that I thought of during the opening paragraphs.

I started to feel a pied piper vibe but discounted that logically because nobody else seemed as affected by her performance. They thought her talented, and were happy to have her around as a party trick, but I wonder if the music really was directed to him, or if she followed his lead when he shared with her his own response.

feb. 1, 2020, 12:53pm

>19 frahealee: I read Jamaica Inn while at school and loved it. I would not have thought of it as lesser known. I think it may have been the first of her stories to be made into a film.

Editat: feb. 1, 2020, 1:35pm

>20 pgmcc: Good to know. I had never before heard the title let alone the plot. I went into it cold, read it quickly and researched the Cornish landscape, then read it again!

My above comments might seem insensitive to those who suffer with mental illness, but this was a case of amplified proportions. She plunked down beside him on a bus field trip and he shared popcorn with her. He could not even tell me her name when I intervened. It might have been a fixation on the fact that he's an identical twin, but his elder brother had to shadow him for safety, because gals can say anything now and be believed. The boy rarely is when innocent.

feb. 1, 2020, 1:29pm

It's one of my favourites, as well, and I like the Hitchcock film equally well, though it's considerably different.