My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

Everyone wants Rachel to visit. Nick suggests his home, Pelyn, is better equipped to host Rachel and she should come in a few days. Philip insists Rachel see the whole estate and visit every farm first. After the guests leave, Philip and Rachel agree it was a pleasant gathering, Philip marveling at the difference from the tedium of Sundays past. She says he should hurry and marry Louise so he will always have a hostess. He rejects the notion, saying he wants to marry no one, but Rachel mentions she got the impression from Nick that Philip and Louise would marry.

As they talk about her schedule of accepting and repaying visits, she suggests giving Italian lessons when she visits, an idea Philip rejects as something for poor spinsters to do. He wonders if Rachel is really lacking for money. Giving lessons would shame his wealthy family, calling attention to Ambrose's neglect in providing for Rachel. Philip cannot do anything about her finances until his birthday in six months, but Nick can.

When a delivery of plants arrives, Rachel cancels plans so she can spend time in the garden. Philip is free to see Nick about providing for Rachel. Nick agrees Italian lessons would be shaming. Everyone, even servants, knows she got nothing in the will—Philip insists the situation be rectified immediately. Nick wishes he could speak to Rainaldi about her finances. Philip says everything she had went to pay her first husband's debts, and now she must sell the villa. Philip and Nick plan to deposit a quarterly check in an account for her immediately, saying it is from "the estate" not Philip directly. Philip says a number, which Nick finds overgenerous and notes "You are going from one extreme to the other." When he greets Louise quickly on the way out, she tells him Rachel, "a woman of the world," has twisted him "around her finger."

Analysis

The implications of Rachel's giving Italian lessons are shocking to people of Philip's class. Working for a living is something done only under dire circumstances and would involve loss of face, implying loss of money. Rachel is no stranger to hard work, as she demonstrates on gardening days, so working to support herself in what could be a long widowhood seems to not daunt her. The problem is one of class and status. Working was not an option for an aristocratic woman; she should not need additional income, and personal fulfillment or using one's talents was unheard of. A woman with time and energy to spare would volunteer or do charity work; oversee the servants in some areas; or keep up with needlework, sketching, or practicing an instrument, as Philip suggests. So, the idea of a woman from the landowning family taking money for lessons from lower-born neighbors, or worse, tenants and lodgers on their land, is appalling. The Ashleys would be humiliated, Ambrose's name and memory shamed. Even though Rachel was not raised in England, she would know these rules, and they would have been similar in Italy for the Contessa.

In one reading of the situation, innocent Rachel is either making a practical plan to survive or making a poor attempt at a joke, as she claims. Philip's interpretation may be trusted in this case as he says it absolutely was not a joke. In the other reading, needy but not necessarily guilty of murder, Rachel is dropping a very large hint, perhaps even a veiled threat, to draw attention to her impoverished state, knowing it would force Philip's hand to avoid a breach of manners in his social standing. Either way Rachel's proposal works to her benefit as Philip rushes to float large sums of money in her direction. He has gone from wanting to make Rachel suffer to developing empathy for her surviving two husbands and having nothing but debt.

Philip's extremes come to light in this chapter. From his original intention to be rude and unpleasant, to get rid of "the interloper" as soon as possible, he now wants her to stay. He admires her, is excited by her, and most of all has allocated excessive funds for her support. Nick notices both extremes, as does Louise, who shows ill humor and jealousy over Rachel's hold on Philip, who is so angry with Louise he "could have struck her." His emotional extremes continue to reveal themselves in his actions and reactions.

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