My Cousin Rachel | Study Guide

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Philip returns to Florence and wanders around the market stalls and cathedral as he comes to terms with Ambrose's death. He crosses the river to visit Rainaldi who tells him Rachel has left Florence. Philip perceives Rainaldi as guarded, perhaps knowing more than he says. Rainaldi says Ambrose's death was sudden; he had a fever like many foreigners, and Rachel had not wanted to cause worry.

When Philip shows Rainaldi Ambrose's last two letters, Rainaldi says doctors warned Rachel that tumors pressing on the brain caused Ambrose's strange behavior. Philip connects this diagnosis with Nick's suggestion of the same. As Rachel's trustee, Rainaldi has read Ambrose's will but must let Nick share its contents with Philip as his guardian. Surprised to hear he has a guardian—at 24 he is well past the age of maturity—Philip is more concerned with Ambrose at the moment. Upset, he points to the "Rachel my torment" line, saying Ambrose was under attack. In his cold way, Rainaldi refers to a medical journal and offers the names of the doctors who say delusions and paranoia are part of this illness. Philip decides he hates Rainaldi.

Rainaldi offers Philip the address for Ambrose's grave but Philip does not want to visit it. He leaves and stands beside the Arno. The stiff corpse of a dog passes under the bridge. Philip vows "whatever it had cost Ambrose in pain and suffering before he died, I would return it, in full measure, upon the woman who had caused it."

Analysis

The tension of racing to Italy to save Ambrose has dissipated as Philip learns his cousin is dead. Next, he wants answers and to hold accountable the people who menaced Ambrose and drove him to an early grave. However, some of his momentum is lost when Rainaldi mentions the brain tumor, which matches Nick's speculation. If a brain tumor killed Ambrose, it is unfortunate, but no one is to blame. All of Ambrose's watchfulness and mistrust of Rachel, the doctors, and Rainaldi have been delusions of a mind affected by illness. Rachel's constant attention was a show of concern, not spying. But, Philip is unable to let the cause be disease; he needs someone to blame, somewhere to direct his anger and pain. Although the others can attribute Philip's attitude to youthful impetuosity, Philip believes the letters are proof of wrongdoing.

Rainaldi's continued redirection to the brain tumor diagnosis raises Philip's ire toward him, putting Rainaldi solidly in the enemy camp. Philip's vow to avenge Ambrose's death again reflects his youth and inexperience as well as his adolescent inability to accept life as it is rather than as how he would like it to be. Perhaps this inexperience prevents him from accepting illness as the cause of death, for he has not seen enough of life to believe Ambrose's torment could have been a delusion. Although Philip never saw Ambrose suffer the affliction in person, Nick, in contrast, saw Ambrose's father behave similarly long before Philip was born.

Rainaldi's description of Rachel as "a woman of impulse" confirms her strength and impetuosity. At first, she and Ambrose had no desire to "live beyond the moment." Now, she has quickly and impetuously left Florence, and women like Rachel "hold to the thing they want, and never surrender."

Philip's vow raises the tension again, reinforced by the dog floating on the Arno. The dead dog recalls the desolation Philip feels for himself without Ambrose, but even more for Ambrose's dying alone in a foreign country without a friend or the comforts of home. From Philip's perspective, Ambrose died like a dog in the street.

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