My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As the dinner guests are leaving the Ashley house, Philip hears Kendall mention that Rachel will be coming to Pelyn. Philip “squash[es] the idea,” saying that Rachel will be staying with him and paying visits to “every one of the tenants in strict precedence.” Happy to be alone together, Philip and Rachel discuss the evening. When Philip expresses how pleasant he found it, Rachel says: “Then you had better hurry up and marry your Louise, and have a real hostess, not just a bird of passage.”
Philip’s eagerness to have Rachel remain at the Ashley estate not only emphasizes the about-face he has done with regard to his cousin, but also suggests that Philip feels slightly possessive of Rachel. This feeling will increase as Philip becomes increasingly infatuated with Rachel. Also worth noting is Rachel’s continued attempt to direct Philip’s attention toward Louise, which could be interpreted as genuine concern for Philip or as an attempt to flirtatiously provoke him.
Themes
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
Philip insists he does not want to marry anyone, least of all Louise. Rachel insists that Louise would make an excellent wife, and Philip bids her “be quiet.” He also tells her to forget about staying at Pelyn or at the vicarage with the Pascoes, who have also issued her an invitation. “I am the master here,” he says. “Then I must do as I am bid,” Rachel replies. “That is part of a woman’s training too.” Philip suspects Rachel might be laughing at him, but she is looking down, and he “[cannot] see her eyes.”
This exchange reveals a glimpse of Philip’s cockiness. Rachel does seem to be teasing Philip by agreeing to do as he bids, and the fact that Philip cannot tell this for certain shows that, despite his displays of confidence, he is still at a loss when it comes to interpreting Rachel’s words and actions.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Rachel teases Philip by suggesting that he “make up a little list of rules” for her to study “while [she] is waiting [at the Ashley house] to be called upon,” since Philip has forbidden her from visiting. Philip begins inventing a schedule for Rachel, but she soon protests, saying that he is “drawing up for [her] a programme of leisure for which [she is] entirely unsuited.” Instead, she suggests, she could give Italian lessons to the estate’s tenants. Horrified, Philip insists that “only spinsters give lessons, when they have no one to support them.” When Rachel asks what a widow should do in “similar circumstances,” Philip replies: “Oh, widows marry again as fast as possible, or sell their rings.” Rachel says she would prefer giving Italian lessons, pats Philip’s shoulder, and leaves the room.
The flirtatious exchange between Rachel and Philip continues, showing that Philip is more at ease than when he first met Rachel. Their banter sours when Philip oversteps his bounds. He has been treating the entire conversation as a joke, but Rachel’s suggestion of giving Italian lessons highlights how truly bereft she is in the wake of Ambrose’s death. Not only does she have to deal with the emotional burden of losing her husband, Rachel must also find some way to support herself. Her departure from the room shows that she is serious about securing a stable future for herself, even if Philip treats the subject with flippancy.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Philip is immediately humiliated by his thoughtless comment to Rachel. He knows he will not be able to sleep because he will be kept awake by shame at how “blundering” and “unfeeling” he was. Instead he takes Don out for a walk about the grounds. He begins to worry about the fact that Ambrose’s will makes no financial provision for Rachel, and he decides to visit Nick Kendall to see what can be done. “Thank heaven I had thought of [this],” he reflects. “Italian lessons… How shaming, how appalling.”
Philip is ashamed of what he’s said because he realizes it is disrespectful to Rachel given that her husband is only recently dead. However, the fact that Philip persists in thinking it shameful that Rachel should want to employ herself as an Italian teacher shows that he does not treat seriously the notion that Rachel might want to be financially independent rather than rely on a man to financially provide for her. Philip is quicker to make financial provision for a woman he had sworn to destroy than he is to imagine that a woman might desire financial independence. This shows how deeply engrained the societal norm of women’s dependence on men truly is.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
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As he continues to walk, Philip hears Rachel’s voice calling to him from her open bedroom window. Though he would like to apologize, Philip finds himself “tongue-tied and ashamed.” As Philip stands below Rachel’s window, Rachel reaches behind her and drops down a flower to him, from one of the displays that was put in her room. Philip feels instantly “light of heart.”
The appearance of Rachel’s window is important, because Philip will stand outside it again on the eve of his birthday, just before the most climactic point of the novel. It is also important that Philip is tongue-tied in this scene, because it suggests that Rachel has an advantage over him, since she always finds something to say, even in awkward situations. The idea that Rachel has the upper hand in her relationship to Philip is symbolically mirrored by the fact that she is elevated, sitting at her window, while Philip is below her on the ground.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
On Thursday morning, Rachel’s Italian plants arrive from Plymouth, and Philip uses the opportunity to visit Nick Kendall at Pelyn. The two discuss Rachel’s situation, and Kendall resolves that “the best plan will be to pay a quarterly cheque, from the estate, into an account” that he will open for Rachel. Philip decides on an extravagant sum to be paid Rachel, and watches with satisfaction as Kendall writes a letter to her informing her that “it was the wish of the estate that provision should be made for her.” Philip takes a copy of the letter with him so he can drop it off at the bank.
This scene represents the first step Philip takes toward transferring all of his financial inheritance to Rachel. The fact that he suggests a much higher sum than his godfather is comfortable with shows how eager Philip is to lavish Rachel with material things as a way to buy her emotional devotion. Philip’s desire to force Rachel to be permanently at home at the Ashley estate will only grow more desperate as the novel continues.
Themes
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As he is leaving Pelyn, Philip runs into Louise. He asks whether she has gotten over her “vile humour” from Sunday, saying it was “a wonder the Pascoe girls did not remark upon it.” Louise retorts that the Pascoes were far more likely to have been remarking upon “how simple it must be for a woman of the world, like Mrs. Ashley, to twist a young man like [Philip] around her finger.” Philip leaves in a huff, feeling as though “he could have struck [Louise].”
Louise’s commentary provides important outside context for the reader, confirming that Philip’s infatuation with Rachel is strong enough for other characters notice it. In addition, Philip’s impulse to hit Louise because she has said something he does not like foreshadows the scene where Philip strangles Rachel when she says she will not marry him. These two scenes demonstrate that Philip has violent tendencies, and that he feels entitled to hear what he wants to hear from women.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon