My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

When Philip returns, Wellington scolds him about overworking the horse. The servants tell Philip how hard Rachel has worked in the garden. He goes up to her boudoir, and when Rachel admits him, he is stunned by the sight of her in a robe and with her damp hair pinned up. They have a pleasant conversation about the garden. As she dresses in the other room, the note from Nick about the allowance arrives. Rachel seems angry, knowing it is Philip's doing, saying, "If you wish to humiliate me ... by heaven, you have gone the right way about it." She says the quip about the Italian lessons was a joke. Philip disagrees: "It is not you who is likely to be humiliated but me." He must provide for her as Ambrose would have wanted: "For Mrs. Ambrose Ashley to give lessons in Italian is shameful; it reflects upon the husband who neglected to make provision for her in his will." She retreats in tears, feeling patronized. Philip is in anguish. He dines alone and sulks by the fire.

When he goes to bed, he finds a note from Rachel saying she will accept the allowance. For the first time, Philip finds himself blaming Ambrose for failing to make provision for Rachel. Philip goes to her room, and she says she will leave for London soon. Struggling to make sense of Rachel's behavior and the situation, Philip admits, "I don't know anything about you or about any woman. All I know is that I like it now you are here. And I don't want you to go." He uses the garden as an excuse to keep her there. She reveals, "You know I want to stay." Philip is completely confused. They make peace and she sends him off to bed with a kiss "like a good boy." Philip is relieved until he sees her letters to Nick and Rainaldi in the mail bag. His spirits plummet once again.

Analysis

As they get to know each other, Philip and Rachel embark on an unsteady relationship. Philip admires how hard she works in the garden, how independent, rejecting all pampering—nothing like his expectations of a woman. Then, he is astonished in the other direction when he sees her as ultra-feminine with her ruffled dressing gown and loosely pinned hair. His limited experience with women has never placed him in such intimate proximity, such intimacy being on the edge of Victorian acceptability between a man and a woman, but not so between a mother and son. Romantic tension as the only tension could continue indefinitely, but with the arrival of Nick's note about the allowance, the argumentative tension is back.

Rachel is perceptive in assessing Philip's lack of social awareness and emotional immaturity: "Sometimes, Philip, I think you lack all understanding." He does not disagree. Nor does he understand the ramifications of two unattached adults living in the house together—alone (servants do not count). Rachel asserts if she does not leave, her presence will cause gossip or "talk." Philip shows either no concern or no comprehension—"Talk if you stayed? ... What do you mean?" In wanting her to stay, Philip confirms, "I don't know anything about you or about any woman." His inexperience shows in his dual fears of her crying or hitting him.

Is Rachel truly perceptive, or is she manipulative, confusing Philip easily because he is inexperienced and lacks instinct? She claims she will leave soon, then says, "You know I want to stay," even though he does not know any such thing. Philip is mixed up and alarmed by her mood swings, but when he reveals his fear she might hit him, she says, "Sometimes you are so stupid," further invalidating his experience and his lack of maternal attention. When she kisses him and sends him to bed "like a good boy," is she infantilizing a grown man, or is she offering a sweet maternal comfort to a motherless orphan? The whole exchange, from saying he is so stupid she might actually hit him to kissing him as a reward for compliance, could be construed as a perverse flirtation depending on what the reader believes about Rachel's motives. Once again, her flirtation, if it is indeed flirtation, focuses on the maternal, which appeals far more to Philip's needs than direct flirtation between contemporaries.

Also noteworthy is that the obstacles, the rising and falling tension, are shown through dialogue—conversation and letters. The actions of the novel—such as eating, riding a horse, petting a dog—are something for the characters to do while they talk, like actors in film or on stage. This technique comes as no surprise, for du Maurier was raised in a theater family, and her novels have the plot and scope of stage plays.

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