My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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Eyes Symbol Icon

In the novel, eyes symbolize the impulse to make clear-cut judgements about people, which fails to account for rich, nuanced personalities. Both Rachel and Philip have distinct eyes. Philip’s are remarkable because they are nearly identical to Ambrose’s. Meanwhile, Rachel’s eyes are one of her finest physical features: dark and fine, they are also incredibly expressive. Philip often judges whether or not Rachel is making fun of him based solely on the expression in her eyes. However, du Maurier complicates the platitude that “eyes are the windows to the soul,” by filling the novel with shifting glances, averted gazes, and impossible-to-read expressions. While Rachel’s eyes may be her finest feature, they are also her most sinister one; in his letters, Ambrose writes that Rachel’s eyes are always “upon [him], watchful and strange.” Philip, too, is unsettled by Rachel’s eyes, even as he is captivated by them. He once thinks of Rachel: “Had I ground the face to powder with my heel, the eyes would have remained.” Rachel’s eyes thus have a timeless, almost mystical power to them. Philip often refers to Rachel’s eyes as “the eyes,” using the definite article (“the eyes”) rather than the possessive pronoun (“her eyes”) suggesting that there is something inhuman, perhaps even otherworldly about Rachel. The paradox of Rachel’s eyes is their expressiveness coupled with their unreadability, and du Maurier uses this complexity to suggest that it is impossible to fully interpret another person’s behavior, especially by a physical marker. Philip often attempts to do this, distrusting Rainaldi’s “dark hooded eyes,” and immediately warming to the servant Giuseppe, at the Villa Sangalletti, due to his “dog’s eyes, honest and devoted.”

Eyes Quotes in My Cousin Rachel

The My Cousin Rachel quotes below all refer to the symbol of Eyes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Guilt Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Sourcebooks edition of My Cousin Rachel published in 2009.
Chapter 8 Quotes

Once, not so long ago, I had seen other eyes with that same age-old look of suffering. Those eyes too had held reserve and pride, coupled with the same abasement, the same agony of supplication […] it must be because the eyes are the same colour and they belong to the same race. Otherwise they could have nothing in common, the beggar woman beside the Arno and my cousin Rachel.

Related Characters: Philip Ashley (speaker), Rachel Ashley
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

I looked up, startled, and it seemed to me, as we stared at one another, that she knew now all my fantasies, my dreams, that she saw one by one the faces of the women I had conjured all those months. Denial was no use, protestation absurd. The barriers were down. It was a queer feeling, as though I sat naked in my chair.

Related Characters: Philip Ashley (speaker), Rachel Ashley
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

She would take great care about her person, when she went calling. Her best mantle, and her new veil and bonnet. I would sit with my back to the horses, in the carriage, so that I could look at her; and, I think to tease me, she would not lift her veil.

Related Characters: Philip Ashley (speaker), Rachel Ashley
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

She lifted her veil, and the eyes that looked into mine were not smiling as I had hoped, or tearful as I had feared, but steady and serene and quite unmoved, the eyes of someone who has been out upon a matter of business and settled it to satisfaction.

For no great reason I felt blank, and in some sense cheated. I wanted the eyes to be as I remember them at sunrise.

Related Characters: Philip Ashley (speaker), Rachel Ashley
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

Then, tears coming to her eyes, she looked at me and said, “A woman can’t suffer twice. I have had all this before.” And lifting her fingers to her throat she added, “Even the hands around my neck. That too. Now will you understand?”

I looked over her head, straight at the portrait above the mantelpiece, and the young face of Ambrose staring at me was my own. She had defeated both of us.

Related Characters: Philip Ashley (speaker), Rachel Ashley (speaker), Ambrose Ashley
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 358
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

Her head was turned to him as she listened, so that from the head of the table, where I sat, I looked on her in profile. She was always a stranger, thus. Those neat clipped features on a coin. Dark and withdrawn, a foreign woman standing in a doorway, a shawl about her head, her hand outstretched. But full-face, when she smiled, a stranger never. The Rachel that I knew, that I had loved.

Related Characters: Philip Ashley (speaker), Rachel Ashley, Nick Kendall
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 378
Explanation and Analysis:
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My Cousin Rachel PDF

Eyes Symbol Timeline in My Cousin Rachel

The timeline below shows where the symbol Eyes appears in My Cousin Rachel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
...appearance strikes Philip as haunting, as though “centuries in time looked out from those two eyes, [as if] she had contemplated life so long it had become indifferent to her.” (full context)
Chapter 5
Guilt Theme Icon
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...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”... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
...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.” (full context)
Chapter 8
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...stupefaction, that she should be so small.” “The only things large about her [are] her eyes,” and Philip thinks Rachel looks as shocked to see him as he is to see... (full context)
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...another curate and “died on her wedding night—of shock.” As Rachel finishes the story, her eyes remain “solemn,” but Philip notices “her mouth twitching.” Unable to help himself, “[he] smile[s] at... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...wages. Philip is surprised and wonders aloud how Rachel knows this. Tears spring to Rachel’s eyes, and she says coldly, “If you don’t know […] you have less understanding than I... (full context)
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
...her room. Befuddled, Philip stands outside her door holding the stick. The look in her eyes when she gave it to him reminds him of the “age-old look of suffering” that... (full context)
Chapter 9
Guilt Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
...it in Florence, at the villa, from your servants.” Philip sees “no tears in [Rachel’s] eyes, no hint of laughter either”; instead, she looks at him with an expression of “both... (full context)
Chapter 10
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
...plants. Rachel says nothing, but looks at Philip “with such a strange expression in her eyes, almost as though she saw right through [him] into someone else.” (full context)
Chapter 11
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...“very beautiful,” Philip replies that she “must be mad.” “Perhaps,” he says, “[Rachel] has fine eyes, but otherwise she is quite ordinary. The most ordinary person I have ever met.” Louise... (full context)
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...life.” Not even Mrs. Pascoe, whom he loathes, can annoy him. When he meets Rachel’s eyes, he feels a “queer, strange” feeling that goes “right through [him].” (full context)
Chapter 12
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...might be laughing at him, but she is looking down, and he “[cannot] see her eyes.” (full context)
Chapter 13
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
...to her by right.” Rachel looks as though she might hit Philip, but then her eyes fill with tears and she retreats into the bedroom and slams the door. (full context)
Chapter 22
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
...finally releases Rachel, he says, “Will you marry me now?” Rachel backs away slowly, “her eyes still upon [Philip’s] face, her fingers still to her throat.” Philip hears Rachel lock herself... (full context)
Chapter 26
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
...like a swinging ladder.” Finally, Philip finds Rachel lying amongst the stones. She opens her eyes when he takes her hands, and calls him Ambrose. Philip holds Rachel’s hands as she... (full context)