My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Philip and Rainaldi exchange a few tense words, and then Philip goes upstairs to dress for dinner. From his room, he can hear Rachel and Rainaldi talking in Italian. Philip’s earlier excitement has passed, and he is now filled with “misgiving” about why Rainaldi is in Cornwall. The three gather in the drawing room before dinner, and Rainaldi states that part of the reason he has come to see Rachel is so they can decide on whether or not to let the Villa Sangalletti. At dinner, Rachel and Rainaldi occasionally converse in Italian, and Philip finds that this makes Rachel “more animated and more vivid, yet harder in a sense.”
In this passage, Philip gets to see Rachel speaking what is presumably her native language for the first time. The fact that Rachel strikes Philip as so different when she is speaking Italian than when she is speaking English shows another way that people are “unknowable.” Unless he learns Italian, Philip can never actually “meet” the Italian version—perhaps the true version—of Rachel. In this way, Philip’s earlier project of imagining multiple different versions of Rachel was not entirely ridiculous; different versions of her do exist. Philip seems to find this unsettling, as he disapproves of this “harder” version of Rachel.
Themes
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
After dinner, Rachel and Rainaldi go up to her room to discuss their business; Philip declines Rachel’s invitation to join them later. Instead, he wanders the grounds and broods: “Would she brew tisana for him, as she did for me, and move about the room so that he could watch her?” Around eleven at night, Philip returns to his room, where Rachel knocks on the door to wish him good night. She asks Philip’s blessing for Rainaldi to stay three days at the estate, and laughingly teases Philip for his childish jealousy at dinner.
Rachel’s carefree response to Philip’s behavior obscures his pettiness and selfishness. Philip has no well-founded reason to resent time Rachel might spend with her longtime friend. However, he feels justified in behaving rudely solely because he wants Rachel’s attention for himself. Though Philip gets annoyed when he feels Rachel is treating him like a child, passages like this make it easy to understand why she does so.
Themes
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
Rainaldi stays an entire week, and Philip continues to find him unpleasant and condescending. One evening, when Rainaldi and Philip are alone together before dinner, Rainaldi says: “This change of air has done wonders for [Rachel], but I think before long she will feel the need of society, such as she has been used to in Florence.” Philip resents that Rainaldi has power over Rachel because he manages her affairs; however, he is comforted that “in three weeks’ time [Rachel] [will] be independent of Rainaldi for the rest of her life.”
Philip conceives of himself as a “good guy,” trying to rescue Rachel from Rainaldi’s pernicious, controlling influence. What Philip does not admit is the fact that he wants Rachel to be “independent of Rainaldi for the rest of her life,” not for her own sake, but rather so that she can be dependent on Philip instead. After all, even after Philip bequeaths the estate to Rachel, he will be the one to manage it, meaning he will be even more fully in control of Rachel’s finances than Rainaldi is now.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Before he goes upstairs to dress for dinner, Rainaldi tells Philip that the “strong medicine” of Rachel’s presence, “taken in so large a dose, […] could do damage.” When Philip asks if this is “a word of warning, or of advice,” Rainaldi replies: “Of both […] if you will take it the right way.”
Rainaldi’s warning could be interpreted as genuine concern, or as mean-spirited teasing. Rainaldi uses medicinal language that parallels descriptions of poison, which might be taken as evidence that Rainaldi is in on a plot to harm Philip. Du Maurier does a masterful job at sustaining this ambiguity, as she allows the reader to decide how to interpret exchanges like this one.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
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On the last day of Rainaldi’s stay, the Kendalls dine at the Ashley estate. Philip is annoyed by Rainaldi’s suggestion that Rachel come to him in London, where he will be conducting some business before returning to Italy. He is even more irritated by Nick Kendall’s enthusiasm about the idea. That night, Philip lurks on the stairwell and eavesdrops on Rainaldi and Rachel’s conversation, catching his name and Kendall’s mixed into their Italian. He is filled with hatred and jealousy of Rainaldi.
Philip is annoyed by the prospect of Rachel being “taken away” from him by Rainaldi (with Nick Kendall’s help). The fact that Philip directs his anger at Rainaldi suggests that Philip is fundamentally objectifying Rachel, considering her as a piece of his rightful property that might be taken from him by another man. Such thought processes clearly show the way Philip has internalized the same misogyny that Ambrose espoused during Philip’s childhood.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
The next day, Rainaldi prepares to leave. He once again asks Rachel to come to him in London, but she insists that she will make no plans before Philip’s birthday on April 1. Rainaldi snidely replies, “It must be odd to have a birthday on so singular a date. All Fools’ Day, is it not?” Rainaldi finally leaves, and Rachel asks Philip, “Are you glad we are alone again?” She hurries off to the garden before he can answer.
Rainaldi’s comment about Philip’s birthday can be read as foreshadowing of the disastrous events that are about to unfold. His comment also contains fatalistic tones, hinting that Philip’s birth on April Fool’s Day means he is destined to act foolishly. This mirrors the sentiment Philip expressed in the opening chapter of the novel, that his very identity (as well as Ambrose’s) doomed him to a disastrous relationship with Rachel.
Themes
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon