My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

As they prepare for church on Sunday, Philip realizes a "kind of ease had come upon me ... and it seemed ... I could in future say to her what I pleased." Philip comments everyone in the village will want to get a look at Rachel. In the carriage, Philip says people will be eager to see her face, but Rachel plans to lift her veil only after they are inside the church. Philip realizes he forgot his promise to visit Louise the day before. He plans to compliment her on the flower arrangements to make it up to her.

At the church, everyone struggles to see Rachel. Philip feels proud to have her by his side in the pew, and a flood of memories stirs. He has never missed the parents he never knew, but he suddenly wishes he could remember his mother holding him and embracing him. When the service is over, they prepare themselves for the crowd, Philip introducing Rachel to the Pascoes and to Nick and Louise among others. Rachel suggests she and Nick ride together, leaving Philip to make up with Louise in the other carriage.

On the ride home, Louise anticipates a story of confrontation, but Philip says Rachel was not what he expected. Louise says she is beautiful. Philip argues she is ordinary, and he can be himself around her. Louise estimates she is 35 and notes her clothes are expensive. At the house the dinner and the hours pass quickly, everyone engaged and laughing, except Louise. Philip misses Ambrose. The meal ends with Rachel and Philip smiling at each other for a moment, and Philip senses a new feeling go "right through me, never before known."

Analysis

Rachel's veil is a symbol of her widowhood, as it is meant to be, but in this story it also protects her from scrutiny and hides her true identity. She tells Philip she will decide when to put up her veil, not caring if people are waiting or curious. This way she controls what people know about her and when. Even though she does reveal a glimpse of her face, symbolically her true self, it is not enough to reveal her deeper motivations and her guilt or innocence. Throughout the novel, the symbolic veil is never really lifted.

The characterization of Philip as self-absorbed and lacking in empathy is again demonstrated—first by forgetting for more than 24 hours his promise to Louise, and second by expecting to placate her with compliments about her flower arrangements, which he does not recall. Clearly he thinks she is shallow enough to fall for such trifles and doesn't consider Louise's feelings, for in his mind, "Louise isn't a woman ... she's younger than myself and I have known her since she ran around in petticoats." Of course Rachel, ever considerate of others' feelings, reminds Philip Louise "has feelings just the same." No wonder Rachel always seems to be suppressing a laugh. His inexperience and lack of perception amuse her. She also realizes Philip is spending more time with her than he intended at Louise's expense. His attraction to Rachel is clear.

The romantic tension between Philip and Rachel is escalating, with Louise taking note. Philip does not understand why he is having such a good time at dinner, even if Louise does. He is wakening to Rachel as Ambrose did, as if she were the first woman to break through his consciousness. Most likely he is feeling as Ambrose did, beguiled by Rachel's seemingly natural charm. When they exchange a look across the table at the end of the meal, Philip is electrified. Readers sense foreboding when Rachel replies to Nick's comment about the resemblance between Philip and Ambrose: "I have wondered, sitting here at dinner, if there is any difference" between them.

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