My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Philip returns to Florence from the Villa Sangalletti. Still in a daze, he finds himself wandering into a cathedral. As he stands in the church with Ambrose’s hat in his hands, Philip “realise[s] suddenly and sharply the full measure of [his] loss.” Philip leaves the church, eats a meal near the cathedral, and then goes to find Rainaldi’s house.
Though Philip never fully expresses his grief over Ambrose’s loss, it is worth noting how alone Ambrose’s death has left Philip. This loneliness provides important context for Philip’s later relationship with Rachel. Because Rachel’s ancestors were Ashleys, she occupies a unique role in Philip’s life, as she is both his love interest and his only living relative. This further complicates the romantic relationship between Philip and Rachel, as she functions as both Philip’s romantic counterpart and a pseudo-mother figure.
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Rainaldi is surprised to see Philip, and Philip himself is immediately wary of Rainaldi’s “dark and deep-set” eyes and “disdainful” demeanor. The two men discuss Rachel’s departure, and Philip makes the “bold move” of showing Rainaldi Ambrose’s last two letters, in which he expressed clear distress. Rainaldi insists that Ambrose’s doctors believed “there might be something pressing on his brain […] that would account for his condition.” Philip finds himself distrustful of this claim, wondering: “Why did this Italian watch my eyes?”
Philip takes an immediate disliking to Rainaldi. Though he will be just as aware of Rachel’s eyes as he is here of Rainaldi’s, Philip will not have the same negative gut reaction to Rachel that he did to her closest friend. This seems to suggest that part of the reason Philip finds Rachel (initially) non-threatening has to do with her gender. Up until the very end of the novel, Philip persists in thinking Rainaldi guilty of controlling Rachel’s decisions. This likely has to do with the attraction Philip feels to Rachel, even as he comes to believe her guilty of conspiring to kill Ambrose, but it also seems plausible that Philip will never be able to fully consider Rachel accountable for her own actions because he sees her as a passive person based solely on her gender.
Themes
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Rainaldi offers to contact Ambrose’s doctors on Philip’s behalf, but Philip declines. Rainaldi then produces Ambrose’s death certificate, saying that he has sent a copy to the Ashley estate in Cornwall and one to Nick Kendall, whom he says is the trustee of Ambrose’s will. Philip is slightly taken aback to hear this new information; he is even more surprised to learn that Rainaldi has actually read Ambrose’s will. From reading the will, Rainaldi is aware that Nick Kendall is also Philip’s new legal guardian, now that Ambrose is dead. Philip is confused by this, since he is twenty-four years old, but he decides to focus for the moment on learning more about Ambrose’s death.
The fact that Philip does not take possession of the Ashley property until his twenty-fifth birthday will cause innumerable conflicts throughout the course of the novel, and will precipitate the disintegration of Philip’s relationship with his godfather. This plot point also has significant thematic ramifications, as it underscores the importance of possession. As he falls in love with Rachel, Philip becomes increasingly desperate to solidify his “possession” of her by gifting her with physical possessions—namely, the Ashley jewels—even though these items do not yet legally belong to him.
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Philip continues to press Rainaldi for details about Ambrose’s letters, which he claims are proof that Ambrose was “surrounded by people he [could not] trust.” Rainaldi insists that Ambrose was suffering from a brain tumor, which caused him to be “troubled by delusions.” Philip finds Rainaldi’s approach “cold” and “confident.” He is unsure what to believe about Ambrose’s illness—“all [he] know[s] [is] that [he] hate[s] Rainaldi.”
Though Philip hates him instantaneously, Rainaldi remains as mysterious a character as Rachel. Since Rainaldi appears much less frequently in the novel than Rachel, it is even more difficult for the reader to determine whether Philip’s prejudice against him is justified. By showing how immediately Philip becomes convinced that Rainaldi is a sinister figure, du Maurier once again show the impossibility of really knowing another person. After all, it is more likely that Rachel is an actual murderer than Rainaldi, and Philip does not have an immediate negative reaction to her—in fact, he even falls in love with her.
Themes
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Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
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Philip demands more answers from Rainaldi: why didn’t Rachel contact him, Philip asks, when Ambrose fell ill? Rainaldi replies that “a woman of feeling does not easily give way.” “[Women’s] emotions are more primitive than [men’s],” Rainaldi explains. “They hold to the thing they want, and never surrender.” Philip realizes he has “no more to say” to Rainaldi and rises to leave.
Rainaldi’s characterization of Rachel as a woman of “feeling” makes Rachel seem unpredictable and inscrutable. This quality will ultimately both captivate and infuriate Philip, but du Maurier seems also to be suggesting that her male characters attribute this impulsivity to Rachel in a dismissive way, because they do not care to fully understand her motives. This dismissiveness appears in Rainaldi’s claim that women have more “primitive” emotions than men, suggesting that women are less advanced than their male counterparts. Simultaneously, however, Rainaldi seems to be unconsciously acknowledging that women are emotionally more powerful than men, because their feelings are deeper and more intense. Philip will wrestle with whether such fundamental differences exist between men and women throughout the remainder of the novel.
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Rainaldi offers to make arrangements for Philip to visit Ambrose’s grave, but after a brief conversation, Philip realizes he does not want to see the place; Ambrose “would be with [him],” he believes, no matter where his body is buried. Philip tells Rainaldi to inform Rachel of his visit, but Rainaldi replies that Rachel is “a woman of impulse,” and that he is unsure she will ever return to Florence. Philip leaves the house, feeling Rainaldi’s eyes “follow[ing] [him] from behind his shuttered windows.”
Philip’s conviction that Ambrose will continue to be with him after death ultimately becomes distorted. This results in Philip feeling as though he is Ambrose reincarnate, which will cause Philip distress in many forms as the novel continues. Additionally, Philip’s decision not to visit Ambrose’s grave means that the granite slab at the Ashley estate, which features heavily in the second half of the novel, takes on even more emotional significance, as it is the only “grave” of Ambrose’s that Philip has ever seen.
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Philip finds himself again at the riverside, and he stands there reflecting. He decides he believes “in the truth of those two letters” from Ambrose, rather than in Rainaldi’s version of events. He then makes a vow to seek revenge on Rachel. He thinks: “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.”
This moment provides an important emotional baseline for Philip. Before meeting Rachel, Philip is thoroughly convinced of her guilt and considers her an enemy both of his and of Ambrose’s. Philip will journey through several key turning points in his relationship to Rachel as the plot of the novel unfolds.
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