Course Hero. "My Cousin Rachel Study Guide." Course Hero. 3 Aug. 2017. Web. 24 Apr. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/My-Cousin-Rachel/>.
Course Hero. (2017, August 3). My Cousin Rachel Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved April 24, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/My-Cousin-Rachel/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "My Cousin Rachel Study Guide." August 3, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/My-Cousin-Rachel/.
Course Hero, "My Cousin Rachel Study Guide," August 3, 2017, accessed April 24, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/My-Cousin-Rachel/.
Rachel is surprised to learn Philip went to Florence. He tells the story of not hearing from Ambrose for a long while, then receiving a disturbing scrawled letter and departing for Florence soon after. Another letter came as he was leaving. He has them in his pocket and asks if she wants to see them. When she has read them, she says, "How you have hated me"; Philip agrees. When her eyes well up, Philip insists she leave the room because he has never seen a woman cry. She stays put, and he throws the letters into the fire. Rachel is not the woman he hated; she does not exist. He confesses to having been jealous of Ambrose's marriage.
Rachel speaks of Ambrose having been "almost a savior"—strong, tender and "lacking all personal conceit" when she was accustomed to men who were not. Ambrose "wakened" to her like a religion, but she is only human, changeable, and subject to moods. His nature changed, however, from the man she knew originally. She says Philip was right to hate her—if Ambrose had never come to Italy, he would still be alive. Then, Rachel confesses her own jealousy of Ambrose's love for Philip. She ends the conversation, saying she will go to Nick's house on Monday. Philip lists excuses for her not to go. They say goodnight and agree to leave behind their jealousies. Rachel kisses his cheek.
When Rachel reads the letters, her response is empathy. She puts herself in Philip's position and imagines how he felt reading them. Her own feelings are necessarily hidden. The innocent Rachel would relive the painful deterioration of her beloved's health and sanity; the guilty Rachel would see her treachery exposed and wonder how much Philip believed. Instead she focuses on his feelings—"How you have hated me"—soon to be safely confined to the past. Does it speak more to her guilt or her innocence when she says he was right to hate her, and Ambrose would still be alive had they never met? Is it an admission of guilt? Or, does it confirm her innocence because a guilty person would never stray so close to a confession?
Philip's expectation of hating Rachel, dread of her presence, and hope for an early departure contrast with the reality of his feelings. She is not the woman he hated, he finds her company pleasant, and he looks for excuses to prevent her from leaving. Furthermore, he cares very much to know if she still resents him. Then, beyond anything he ever expected, she kisses his cheek—the first tenderness from a woman, in his memory. Rachel's attentions to him are maternal, and never having had maternal attention, not to mention love, he reacts as one who is starved for it but without realizing his need. His complete lack of experience of any kind with women makes him an easy target for a master of manipulation, if that is what Rachel is.
Suspense is heightened by the play of light and dark, particularly at the moment in which Rachel is "looking up at me with such a strange expression in her eyes, almost as though she saw right through me into someone else." With this vision, she asks for a candle, which both hides and illuminates her. She remains a shadowy presence, both she and Philip claiming each may be someone else, or their previous conceptions of each other.