My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on My Cousin Rachel can help.

My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is September by the time Philip returns home to his estate in Cornwall. The servants and tenants are all in mourning, as Nick Kendall has informed them of Ambrose’s death. Philip feels relieved to be home; on his return journey, he felt haunted by images of the “monstrous” Rachel, but now the images have “vanished as nightmares do at break of day.” Philip is greatly comforted by the familiar sights of his estate. He goes out walking the grounds and is thrilled by the realization that everyone and everything he sees “[is] all part of [his] inheritance; they all belonged.” His first night home, he falls asleep feeling deeply at ease, “as though something long sleeping had stirred inside [him] and now come to life.”
The sustaining sense of pleasure that Philip takes in being home shows how central the Ashley estate is to his identity. In fact, it would seem that Philip is happier at the estate than ever before; Ambrose’s death means that the estate will soon pass to Philip, which gives him a new sense of purpose and confidence. Over the course of the novel, the sense of manhood and identity that Philip derives from being a (future) landowner will come to be replaced by his sexual awakening (which Rachel ignites). Philip will transition from viewing his masculinity as stemming from owning land and managing tenants, to exerting dominance over Rachel.
Themes
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The following day, Nick Kendall pays a visit to Philip in order to read him Ambrose’s will. Rainaldi was correct in stating that Kendall has been appointed Philip’s new legal guardian. Per Ambrose’s wishes, the Ashley estate does not officially become Philip’s until his twenty-fifth birthday (in April), so now that Ambrose is gone, Kendall will serve as Philip’s legal guardian until that time. This means that Philip will have to request any money for estate accounts or personal use from Kendall for seven more months.
Kendall’s status as Philip’s legal guardian will cause extreme friction between these two characters later on in the novel. Part of Philip’s frustration with this clause of Ambrose’s will is that it will ultimately limit his ability to “peacock” in front of Rachel, by gifting her with items such as the Ashley jewels. Upon Ambrose’s death, Philip has very quickly come to identify as a member of the landed gentry, and the limits place on him by Kendall’s guardianship will ultimately cause him to rebel and act recklessly.
Themes
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
Nick Kendall and Philip spend some time reminiscing about Philip’s boyhood days. Kendall laments that Philip has grown up “ignorant of women,” and adds that he and Louise both worry about what life will be like for Philip’s future wife. Philip replies, “My wife can take care of all the difficulties when the time comes. If it ever does come, which is unlikely.”
Though Kendall uses the word “ignorant” to mean that Philip lacks knowledge of women, many of Philip’s later actions and opinions will suggest that he also embodies a more modern definition of the word “ignorance,” meaning narrow-mindedness. Though less explicit than Ambrose’s, Philip’s feelings toward women also show signs of deep-seated misogyny.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Philip then recounts for Nick Kendall his visit to Rainaldi. He bitterly informs his godfather of Rachel’s departure from the villa, saying she “[went] off, like a thief, taking all Ambrose’s possessions with her.” Kendall chides Philip for being ungenerous, reminding him that Ambrose’s will does not include provisions for a wife. This leads Philip and Kendall to squabble, with Philip insisting that Rachel “drove [Ambrose] to his death,” and Kendall maintaining that Philip must “reconcile [himself] to the fact that the man we knew and admired and loved was not his true self before he died.” Philip refuses to believe this, and Kendall harshly orders him “not to spread [his] views to others.” If Rachel ever heard these views, he says, “she would be well within her rights to bring a case against [Philip] for slander.”
This conversation establishes the fact that Kendall believes Ambrose died of a hereditary brain tumor, making Philip’s theory about foul play seem ludicrous. The reader will be caught between these two poles for the remainder of the novel. Additionally, this passage underscores how disempowered women are in the society of the novel. Rachel is completely destitute because Ambrose did not include her in his will, and her future will likely be bleak unless she remarries, since there are evidently not many career paths she could pursue. This passage thus emphasizes how even fulfilling society’s expectations by getting married does not ensure that a woman will have a stable future.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Get the entire My Cousin Rachel LitChart as a printable PDF.
My Cousin Rachel PDF
Surprised by Nick Kendall’s forcefulness, Philip awkwardly asks him (and Louise, who has been out walking in the Ashley gardens) for dinner. After dinner, Philip and Louise talk privately. Louise is disappointed that Philip has not gleaned any information about Rachel’s appearance. Philip teases Louise, saying: “I ought to have taken you to Florence with me. You would have learnt much more than I did.” Louise blushes at this, and again later when Philip bids her and her father good night. Philip feels amused by the idea of a girl “whose hair [he] used to pull only a few years back, now looking upon [him] with respect.”
Philip and Louise’s interaction provides a moment of dramatic irony, when the reader knows something that the character does not. It is clear that Louise is in love with Philip, but Philip remains oblivious to this throughout the novel and often treats Louise poorly, despite the constant friendship she shows him. It is also interesting to consider Philip’s comment that Louise would have learned more than he did in Florence, because Louise will prove herself a perceptive character later in the novel, while Philip will constantly be making blunders and misreading other characters’ actions.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Philip settles down to work on the estate; there is much to do given his long absence and the start of the harvest. He is surprised to receive a note from Nick Kendall within only a week’s time, bidding Philip to come visit him. When Philip rides over to his godfather’s the next day, he learns that his godfather has received a letter from Rachel, who has arrived by boat in Plymouth, England.
The “cliff-hanger” nature of this chapter’s ending demonstrates how skillful du Maurier is at manipulating tension in her writing. This passage is also noteworthy because it contains the only formal letter Rachel writes in the entire novel (at least that Philip is privy to). While the reader gets a glimpse of Ambrose’s interior life from his letters, Rachel’s inner thoughts and feelings are never revealed in this way, even in this singular letter.
Themes
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon