My Cousin Rachel


Daphne du Maurier

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Pearl Collar Symbol Icon

The pearl collar, which is an Ashley family heirloom, symbolizes marriage. The collar is traditionally worn by Ashley women only on their wedding day and was last worn by Philip’s mother. Philip gifts it to Rachel first on Christmas and again on his twenty-fifth birthday, when it is actually legally his to give. Rachel wears the necklace several times over the course of the novel, but the most important time is on the eve of Philip’s birthday, just before Philip and Rachel have sex. Later, Philip interprets Rachel’s acceptance of the gift (and the fact that she has sex with him) as proof that she has consented to marry him. While suffering from meningitis, Philip also has a fever dream about Rachel wearing nothing but the necklace, which suggests how intimately Phillip associates the necklace with Rachel’s sexuality.

On a deeper and more disturbing level, however, the pearl collar is also a symbol of Philip’s possessive obsession with Rachel. His desire to see Rachel wearing the collar represents how desperate he is to be sure of his “ownership” of her; Philip needs tangible proof that Rachel belongs to him. Though du Maurier never explicitly makes the comparison, it is significant that the piece of jewelry that holds such meaning is a “collar,” rather than a bracelet or a pair of earrings, as “collar” frequently refers to an item worn by an animal demonstrating to whom the animal belongs. Furthermore, the pearl collar is worn around the neck, pointing to when Philip strangles Rachel in a desperate attempt to threaten her into marriage.

Pearl Collar Quotes in My Cousin Rachel

The My Cousin Rachel quotes below all refer to the symbol of Pearl Collar. 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 16 Quotes

Her shoulders were bare. She had dressed her hair higher than usual, the roll of it was looped up and drawn back, showing her ears. Around her neck was the collar of pearls. It was the only piece of jewellery [sic] upon her person. It glowed soft and white against her skin. I had never seen her look so radiant, or so happy. Louise and the Pascoes had been right after all. Rachel was beautiful.

Related Characters: Philip Ashley (speaker), Rachel Ashley, Louise Kendall
Related Symbols: Pearl Collar
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
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My Cousin Rachel PDF

Pearl Collar Symbol Timeline in My Cousin Rachel

The timeline below shows where the symbol Pearl Collar appears in My Cousin Rachel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
...because she is still in mourning for Ambrose. All seems solved when Philip sees a pearl collar he remembers from his childhood. The banker explains that Philip’s mother was the last person... (full context)
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
...of the Kendalls and the Pascoes. On the night of the dinner, Philip leaves the pearl collar in Rachel’s room with a note asking her to “wear it tonight, and always.” When... (full context)
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
Rachel comes downstairs dressed for the dinner, wearing the pearl collar . Philip is struck by the realization that he finds her beautiful. Rachel puts her... (full context)
Chapter 17
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
...Nick Kendall’s manner “abrupt”; he soon notices that his godfather’s eyes are glued to the pearl collar Rachel is wearing. Philip bristles at the implied criticism from his godfather, but says nothing.... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
In the drawing room, Mrs. Pascoe compliments Rachel on the pearl collar . In response, Nick Kendall makes a cold comment about how much the necklace is... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...Kendall goes on to say that Philip was not within his rights in removing the pearl collar from the bank. He adds that he has learned more about Rachel’s past on a... (full context)
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
Nick Kendall insists that Philip retrieve the pearl collar from Rachel and return it to the bank. When Philip refuses, Kendall says he will... (full context)
Identity and Destiny Theme Icon
Suddenly, Philip notices Rachel and Louise in the doorway. Rachel calmly gives the pearl collar to Nick Kendall, saying that she “perfectly understand[s]” the situation. The Kendalls depart; Philip is... (full context)
Chapter 18
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...Christmas Day together—but Philip is still angry with Nick Kendall over the matter of the pearl collar . As a way to spite his godfather, Philip decides to spend the New Year... (full context)
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...once pleased and tortured by the “new gentleness” he has observed in Rachel since the pearl collar incident. “Those hands,” he thinks, “resting for a moment on my shoulder, or touching my... (full context)
Chapter 19
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...his. He insists that he will gift Rachel with all the family jewels, including the pearl collar . Rachel refuses, saying the jewels should belong to Philip’s wife. Philip “[knows] well what... (full context)
Chapter 21
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
...anything he wants, and she will give it to him. Philip suddenly “remembers what the [pearl] collar ”—which Rachel now wears around her neck—“mean[s].” He says there is one thing, but “it... (full context)
Chapter 22
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
Philip and Rachel dine. Rachel wears the pearl collar , but Philip finds this makes her “not closer to [him], but more distant.” Philip... (full context)
Chapter 23
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
...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... (full context)