My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Philip breakfasts alone, where he receives a note from Louise. She says she can meet him in town if he would like someone to talk to; “please remember,” she writes, “I am your friend, and always will be.” Philip accepts: “a sleepless night” and “an agony of loneliness” make him crave Louise’s company. He rides through the rain to town, where he and Louise take shelter in the church.
Louise’s note reaffirms that she is a loyal, caring friend to Philip. Though she has never been a fan of Rachel’s, Louise genuinely feels badly that Philip has been hurt by Rachel. Besides giving a deeper glimpse into Louise’s character, this passage suggests that Philip is not self-sufficient enough to work through the events of the preceding day; rather, he relies on Louise for comfort almost as heavily as he has relied on Rachel.
Themes
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Louise does her best to comfort Philip. “There has been deception from the first,” she says, “and you were prepared for it, in the beginning, before [Rachel] came.” Philip replies that the only deception happened in “the last few hours,” and that he is to blame for the misunderstanding. Louise insists that Rachel has been taking advantage of Philip. She points out that Rachel has been steadily sending money out of the country, and suggests that Rachel has merely been biding her time until Philip’s twenty-fifth birthday when, “with [Nick Kendall] no longer guardian, she could bleed [Philip] as she chose.”
Louise’s comments are important because they closely resemble Philip’s early concerns about Rachel. The fact that Louise’s accusations of Rachel seem so outlandish to Philip is evidence of how much his perspective—and perhaps the reader’s along with it—has changed over the course of the novel. Another significant aspect of this passage is that Philip does admit his fault in the “misunderstanding” that occurred when he and Rachel slept together without clarifying what the act meant. This is a rare moment in which Philip takes responsibility for his actions.
Themes
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Philip takes Louise’s comments as “slander, almost blasphemy.” He responds that Louise has been prejudiced against Rachel from the moment she met her, and thinks that “no one could ever understand, save Ambrose, who was dead.” Louise asks what Philip’s future holds, and he says he will continue asking Rachel to marry him. When Louise asks what Rachel’s answer was the first time Philip asked, on the morning of his birthday, Philip replies: “We spoke at cross purposes […] I thought that she meant yes, when she meant no.”
Philip’s conviction that Ambrose is the only one who can understand him once again touches on the theme of destiny, as Philip seems to be suggesting that he and Ambrose are the only ones who truly know what it means to love Rachel. (Though, arguably, neither of the Ashley men either loved—or even knew—Rachel all that well.) Additionally, it is ironic that Philip claims he and Rachel “spoke at cross purposes,” as the entire problem is that they did not speak to each other at all, and instead relied solely on action to convey their complex and divergent intentions.
Themes
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Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Philip and Louise exit the church; Louise’s carriage is waiting to take her home. Louise tells Philip what happened when Rachel visited Pelyn on Philip’s birthday to discuss the transfer of the estate with Nick Kendall. Kendall pointed out the remarriage clause, emphasizing to Rachel that she must remain a widow in order to retain the Ashley estate and fortune. According to Louise, “Mrs. Ashley smiled at him and answered, ‘That suits me very well.’” Philip insists that if Rachel were to get remarried to him, this clause would not apply. “That is where you are wrong,” says Louise. “If she married you, the whole would revert to you again.”
Louise’s comments convincingly suggest Rachel’s malice. It seems possible that Rachel would refrain from marrying Philip in order to retain the estate and a degree of financial independence. However, what none of the characters (including Louise) consider is that all Rachel may actually be guilty of is not loving Philip. After all, Rachel has never asked Philip to give her more, and aside from overdrafting her account once, it does not seem that she has stolen anything. Yet again, du Maurier plays the delicate balancing game of hinting at Rachel’s guilt, only to also provide evidence of her innocence.
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Philip is offended. “[Rachel] would not refuse to marry me because of that one clause,” he says. “Is that what you are trying to suggest?” Louise replies: “A wife […] cannot send her husband’s money from the country, nor return to the place where she belongs. I suggest nothing.” Louise apologizes for hurting Philip, and leaves. Philip is dejected, having “come for comfort and found […] only cold hard facts, twisted to distortion.”
Louise’s comment suggests that Rachel has never actually belonged at the Ashley estate. This seems harsh, since England is her ancestral home, and she likely would have lived on the estate with Ambrose, had he survived. However, it is difficult to deny the accuracy of Louise’s statement in the sense that Rachel’s fierce independence and her overt sexuality make her out of place in a rigid English society.
Themes
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Philip spends some time at the inn in town, the Rose and Crown, and then rides home through the rain. At home, he learns from the servant John that Miss Mary Pascoe has come to stay at the estate. Confused, Philip goes upstairs to his room, where he finds a note from Rachel. She writes: “I have asked Mary Pascoe to stay here with me in the house as a companion. After last night, I cannot be alone with you again.”
Though Philip seems to have already moved on from the fact that he tried to strangle Rachel, Rachel’s decision to bring Mary Pascoe to the estate underscores how much of a danger Philip poses to Rachel. This effectively highlights Rachel’s precarious position, as she has nowhere else to stay except in the home of a man who has just physically assaulted her.
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Philip is enraged. Without changing out of his wet clothes, he storms to Rachel’s room, where he finds her with Mary. Philip insists on speaking to Rachel alone. Philip demands to know how long Mary will be staying; “as long as I choose,” says Rachel. Rachel says Mary’s presence not only gives her “some measure of security,” but will also help lessen the gossip that Philip’s “boast of marriage will have done little to improve.” “You threatened me last night,” says Rachel. “Once was enough.” She then bids Philip leave.
It is interesting to note that Rachel has turned to another woman for a “measure of security,” instead of, for example, asking Nick Kendall to help protect her. In fact, Mary’s gender specifically seems to anger Philip, as if he is annoyed that Rachel is exhibiting a kind of female solidarity. Additionally, Rachel’s choice of words is powerful—she says Philip “threatened” her. This understatement actually makes the violence Philip committed against her even more horrifying.
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Philip now regrets strangling Rachel. He begins to worry that he has taken a chill, and orders dinner in his room. Later in the evening, he knocks on Rachel’s door, but it is locked and she does not answer. In the morning, Philip has a terrible headache. Seecombe summons Rachel to Philip’s side, and Rachel decides to send for the doctor. Philip is only half-lucid by the time the doctor arrives, but he hears an agitated Rachel telling the doctor that she has seen this illness before, and that it “attacks the spine, and then the brain.” Philip begs Rachel to stay with him, and she promises to “be with [him] all the time.”
Philip’s illness begins with a headache—the same symptom that Ambrose’s fatal illness produced. It is also noteworthy that Rachel, rather than the doctor, makes the diagnosis of meningitis. On the one hand, this demonstrates that Rachel is incredibly knowledgeable, despite the fact that she does not have formal medical training. On the other hand, Rachel’s assertiveness in making the diagnosis could be a means of covering up for any role she might have had in precipitating the illness.
Themes
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Philip drifts off into a fevered dream, where he imagines himself on the banks of the Arno. “Rachel the beggar girl” approaches him “with empty hands,” naked except for the pearl collar around her neck. She points to the river, and Philip looks down to see Ambrose’s dead body floating past.
Philip’s fever dream suggests that he still very much sexually desires Rachel. Rachel’s silence in the dream is also important, as it emphasizes how Philip relies on her looks and gestures to try to understand her.
Themes
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