My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nick Kendall shows Philip the letter from Rachel. In it, she provides an account of Ambrose’s death and also inquires as to what she should do with her late husband’s possessions; she has saved them in case Philip would like them. Philip is left speechless, but Kendall insists that Rachel be invited to Cornwall. Knowing Philip’s hostility toward Rachel, Kendall suggests that she stay in the guest room at his house, Pelyn, so Philip will not have to see her. “Why should you imagine I don’t wish to see her?” Philip replies. He claims that if Rachel can act on impulse, he can too, and he asks Kendall to write and inform Rachel that she has been invited to the Ashley estate. When Kendall expresses his dismay at seeing Philip “grow[n] so hard” and asks “what has happened to [him],” Philip retorts: “Nothing has happened to me […] save that, like a young war-horse, I smell blood.”
Philip uses violent imagery when he claims he wants Rachel to stay with him at the Ashley estate because “like a young war-horse, [he] smell[s] blood.” Clearly, Philip believes Rachel is in some way responsible for Ambrose’s illness and death, and he intends to make her suffer, just as he swore to do on the banks of the Arno. However, even after Philip meets and falls in love with Rachel, he will continue to exhibit a violent, domineering attitude toward her.
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Philip goes out to Nick Kendall’s summer-house to speak with Louise. Louise expresses her opinion that Rachel will find the Ashley home “untidy, dusty, [and] smelling like a kennel.” Offended, Philip insists that if the house suited Ambrose, it should suit his widow just fine. When Louise asks if Philip really intends to interrogate Rachel, Philip replies that he does not know yet, but that he intends to enjoy watching her squirm. Privately, however, Philip is already beginning to regret his decision to issue the invitation “like a challenge.” He wonders: “What in the world was I to do with that woman in my house? What indeed should I say to her, what action should I take?”
Philip’s hesitation about having rashly invited Rachel to the estate is significant. Though, at this point, Philip believes that Rachel is somehow involved in Ambrose’s death, this is not what makes him nervous to have her staying in his home. Rather, his anxiety appears to stem more directly from the fact that Rachel is a woman. Philip is much more concerned about how to interact with Rachel than he is with the fact that she might do him harm, as she possibly did Ambrose. This passage thus emphasizes how Rachel does retain some social power, despite the many ways in which society disadvantages women.
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Philip informs Seecombe, the steward, that Rachel will be coming to stay. Seecombe is glad of the news, as he and the servants have learned that no provision was made for Rachel in Ambrose’s will. “It’s not usual, you see,” Seecombe says, adding, “We, the servants, were not forgotten.” When Seecombe suggests that Rachel stay in Ambrose’s room, Philip impulsively replies that he intends to move into Ambrose’s room. Seecombe agrees that “in that case the blue room and the dressing-room will be more suitable for Mrs. Ashley.”
Seecombe’s concern for Rachel’s welfare once again highlights how society considers women to be fully dependent on men. Even the Ashley servants are in a more secure financial position than Rachel is following Ambrose’s death. This passage is also significant because it shows that Philip is protective of his of his home, and spaces he considers rightfully his. Ironically, Philip will ultimately find himself much more interested in gaining access to the blue room, where Rachel resides, as the novel continues.
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Through Nick Kendall, Philip makes arrangements to send a carriage for Rachel on Friday. In the meantime, the servants are busy readying the house for her arrival, decorating with flowers and preparing the blue room, which once belonged to an Ashley relative named Aunt Phoebe. On Friday morning, Louise Kendall pays a visit, bringing flowers of her own and asking if Philip would like her to stay in the house until Rachel comes. Philip feels irritated at this assumption of his incompetence, but he is privately nervous and intends to be away from the house when Rachel arrives. Philip promises Louise that he will ride over to Pelyn the following day to tell her all about Rachel.
This passage highlights the care that Louise has for Philip, which likely has roots in both platonic and romantic feelings. It also emphasizes how inept Philip feels in the face of Rachel’s arrival; Louise and the servants all seem at their ease, but Philip has resolved to physically remove himself from the house—which is usually his one true place of sanctuary—when Rachel arrives. This detail seems to hint that there is room either for Philip or for Rachel at the Ashley estate, a kind of foreshadowing of the novel’s tragic ending.
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Philip spends the afternoon out riding and walking, feeling anxious about Rachel’s arrival, as if he can already sense “an unknown hostile presence, stamping her personality upon [his] rooms, [his] house.” Around seven in the evening, Philip returns home and is informed by Seecombe that Rachel has arrived. Rachel has brought few possessions of her own, and all of Ambrose’s old things have been placed in Philip’s room. Rachel has decided to dine alone in her room, requesting that Philip excuse her. Just as Philip is finishing own dinner, he receives a note from Rachel saying she would be happy to receive him in her room after he has eaten. Philip takes a shot of brandy, heads upstairs, and knocks on the door of Rachel’s room.
With a chapter ending such as this one—with the “curtain” dropping just as Philip knocks on the infamous Rachel’s door—it is easy to see why so many scholars consider du Maurier’s writing to have a particular cinematic quality. On a thematic level, this passage is important because of how worried Philip is about Rachel’s arrival physically changing his home. The fact that he imagines Rachel’s very being as capable of “stamping” itself on the house shows how powerful he considers Rachel to be—though he will seem to forget this as the novel continues.
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