My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier’s Novel My Cousin Rachel

I should never have stayed here. Nay, I should never have left Italy.

If my cousin Philip had not been so like Ambros perhaps I could have left. To see his face — that beloved, tormenting face — staring into my eyes once more was more than I could leave. More than I could resist when he asked me to stay. Or I should say ordered me. They were orders, though I turned a blind eye to it then because I wanted him. Or perhaps not him, but Ambros back in my life. I know not.

My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier's Novel My Cousin Rachel | marissabaker.wordpress.com
My Cousin Rachel (2017)

I’m in such fear. It was a foolish thing on both our parts, the midnight of his birthday. He knows too little of the world to realize what I gave him was nothing more than a thank you. A birthday gift that would mean more than that stupid little pearl cravat pin. And yes, I wanted it too. A younger, more devoted Ambros to worship me once again if only for a moment.

And how could I have known that he meant marriage by his comment about lacking warmth and comfort? Or that he thought I’d agreed to be his when he took me into those primroses? Or that he would get so drunk he’d announce our engagement to his godfather and poor Louise at dinner?

I still feel the pressure of his hands at my throat. Those big, powerful hands of a man who works on his farm every day and stands a head taller than me. Stronger than the ones Ambros once put around my neck. My cousin Philip could have snapped my neck, though he wouldn’t have had to. The slightest squeeze more and I’d not have been able to draw the thinnest breath.

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My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Should I feel guilty for bringing Mary Pascoe into this house? Surely his fury won’t touch her, too. The worst he’d do is throw her out of the house. While me … I know not what he’d do were we alone now. Would he wrap his hands around my throat again and expect me to make myself his? Would he force me and afterward tell me I liked it and must marry him?

His fantasy is as complete as the paranoia that claimed Ambrose. I half-believe in his mind we’re already married. That he thinks I’m so sure to agree it’s as if I’ve done so already. That his ridiculous present of his entire fortune will surely convince me to stay.

I must get away. I have the means to do so now, though God knows it’s not why I came here. I simply wanted to see the home Ambros talked about. The symbol of what could have been before he turned on me. The idea of our marriage rather than the reality of it. The allowance my cousin Philip gave me was more than enough. More than I expected or even hoped. To have him honor the will Ambros never signed …

Did he think he’d bought me?

Will he let me leave?


This is quite a bit different than my usual review for books I’m reading on my Classics Club Book list. But I think Daphne Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel (1951) is the sort of novel that invites you to look at it from different perspectives. The fact that you’re trapped inside Philip Ashley’s mind for the entire novel leaves you guessing at what the other characters are really thinking. He’s an unreliable narrator and he’s hopelessly naive, especially when it come to women, so the motives he assigns to Rachel are likely untrue. But if he’s wrong about her, then what is right? Everything we know of her is filtered through Philip. We don’t know her true motive or any of her thoughts. We can only guess, as I’m doing in my little retelling from Rachel’s point of view (which overlaps Chapter 23 of the original novel).

My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier's Novel My Cousin Rachel | marissabaker.wordpress.com
My Cousin Rachel (2017)

I watched the 2017 film adaptation of My Cousin Rachel before reading the book. I suspected I would still enjoy the book after seeing the movie, but knew if I read the book first there was a good chance I’d spend the film grumpy about how they’d adapted it. It turned out to be a very faithful adaptation, though.

*Spoiler Warning* The only major changes were made at the end. The film provides less evidence of Rachel’s alleged guilt, pointing viewers towards the idea that she was not poisoning Philip. And it also has Philip sending her to ride along a dangerous path rather than choosing not to warn her about a dangerous bridge in the garden. The film pushes you toward believing he intended her to die where the book leaves it a little more ambiguous. But then again, Philip’s the one telling the story. Of course he’d make himself look as good as possible.

Philip wants us second-guessing his cousin Rachel. But I suspect Du Maurier wants us to look at Philip just as closely. Because even though we’re getting his perspective on things and he’s certainly not putting any blame on himself, there are things about being in his mind that make me as scared of him as I think Rachel is.

My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier's Novel My Cousin Rachel | marissabaker.wordpress.com
My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Repeatedly, Philip says he wants to isolate Rachel from everyone but him. And that’s before he starts becoming overtly controlling. And when he puts his hands around her throat, it’s not in the heat of anger. He presents it as a calculated decision to add fear to the list of reasons she should marry him. Later, he barely contains his fury and indignation when (after he’s given her all his property and she still hasn’t married him) she states that she can and will invite whoever she likes to stay with them because the house belongs to her and she doesn’t feel safe alone with him.

So instead of just asking, “Did Rachel poison Ambros and/or Philip?” I think we need to ask whether such an act could be considered self-defense. Abuse does not justify murder, but even if Rachel killed someone she may not be the evil and/or misguided character that Philip (who describes himself as feeling a strange compassion for her once he makes up his mind about her guilt) makes her out to be. It might have been more of an act of desperation and fear than calculating malice.

But that’s assuming she’s guilty at all. And there’s no clear evidence that she is. Laburnum (the plant Philip settles on as the murder weapon) isn’t even all that poisonous. The most common symptoms are nausea and vomiting, and that’s after eating several seeds. “Higher doses can produce intense sleepiness, convulsive possibly tetanic movements, coma, slight frothing at the mouth and unequally dilated pupils. … [However] the MAFF publication ‘Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man’, says that all stories about laburnum causing serious poisoning and death are untraceable” (The Poison Garden).

My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier's Novel My Cousin Rachel | marissabaker.wordpress.com
“Laburnum” by Neil Turner

Perhaps Du Maurier believed her chosen poison really was deadly based on the rumors that have made it one of the most feared garden plants. But perhaps she did her research and knew that Philip was jumping to unjustifiable conclusions. Maybe she would have known, as Rachel surly did with her expertise in herb lore and gardening, that most gardens are home to far more reliably deadly plants (like foxglove and oleander). Perhaps Du Maurier meant for her readers to realize that a brain tumor (for Ambros) and a relapse of meningitis (for Philip) are the most logical explanations for symptoms both men attribute to “Rachel, my torment.”

There’s an argument to be made that Philip isn’t really concerned about whether or not Rachel poisoned Ambros at all. He decides her guilt based on whether or not she “conforms to his desires and whims” (from “My Cousin Rachel (2017) and Male Entitlement“). After all, he already possesses everything else that belonged to Ambros. Why not Rachel as well?

The question of whether or not Rachel poisoned Ambros consumes Philip only until their first meeting. After that he’s quite certain she’s innocent until she makes it clear she won’t marry him. All his worry about whether or not she’s guilty of murder covers the fact that his inability to deal with rejection brings out a desire to posses and control her. He and Ambros call Rachel “my torment” because she brings out the ugliest side of their natures and they blame her for their darkness rather than looking to the true culprits. Themselves.My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier's Novel My Cousin Rachel | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Click here to get a reading copy of My Cousin Rachel, and here for the movie. Please note that these are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.

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In The Age of Piracy: Reading and Watching Captain Blood

As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I have something of an obsession with tall ships. This is probably a result of my love for stories set during the Age of Sail. One such story is Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini, first published in 1922.

This book wasn’t on my original Classics Club list. I’d already read it and hadn’t intended a reread, especially after being disappointed by Sabatini’s Bardelys the Magnificent. But I ended up with a digital copy on my phone a year or so ago and started reading it while in a waiting room. So of course I had to finish it — one simply doesn’t abandon an adventure novel in the middle of the story.In The Age of Piracy: Reading and Watching Captain Blood | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I’m (once again) in the midst of a pirate obsession, for which we can thank the recent release of Daughter of the Siren Queen (sequel to my 2nd favorite novel of 2017, Daughter of the Pirate King). So I started reading a book on the history of pirates in reality and fiction, which prompted me to watch the 1935 version of Captain Blood. And that brings me to my decision to write a post for the classic novel.

But first, a brief digression about the film, which is really quite impressive. $1 million went into its production (to put this in perspective, online estimates tell me that $1 in 1935 has the same buying power as $17-18 today). It launched Errol Flynn’s and Olivia de Havilland’s careers and made an overall profit of $1.5 million. And it was scandalously realistic for a 1930s audience. In fact, a screenwriter named Robert Lord wrote to the producer, Hal Wallis, asking “Why do you have so much flogging, torturing, and physical cruelty in Captain Blood? … Women and children will be warned to stay away from the picture — and rightly so” (quoted in Under The Black Flag by David Cordingly, p.174). Read more

Want To Date An INFJ? Here’s 15 Things We’d Like You To Know

So you want to date an INFJ. I’m not quite sure whether to congratulate you or pat you consolingly on the shoulder. Perhaps both.

Assuming you want this relationship to go well, one of the most important things you can do is try to understand your INFJ love-interest. We’re the rarest personality type and we often feel misunderstood and alone. Showing us that’s not going to happen with you will instantly endear you to an INFJ’s heart.

And so here you are learning about the 15 things INFJs really want you to know as you begin a relationship with us. They might not all be equally true of every INFJ, but this list is the result of feedback from and discussion with nearly 20 different INFJs so you’re getting a pretty good idea of what we’d like to say to you.

Want To Date An INFJ? Here's 15 Things We'd Like You To Know | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Yoann Boyer via StockSnap

Even though I’m an INFJ myself and I’ve written a fairly successful book about the INFJ personality type, I still like to get feedback from other INFJs before writing a post like this. And so I want to say a big “Thank you” to everyone in the Facebook group INFJs Are Awesome who responded to my question about what they thought people should know before dating an INFJ. You guys helped make this post so much better than if it were just me typing away my thoughts in a vacuum.

1) We take relationships very seriouslyWant To Date An INFJ? Here's 15 Things We'd Like You To Know | marissabaker.wordpress.com

While there are some INFJs who will have one-night-stands or enter casual relationships, most of us are interested in something long-term. If you’re not willing to take the relationships seriously we need to know that up-front so we can make a decision about whether or not to bother with you. Most of us know how to be alone and we’d rather stay single than settle for a relationship that just adds stress and anxiety to our lives. We also have a vision for how we want our lives to go and we’ll be going into a relationship trying to figure out how you might fit in with that vision.

2) We need to feel safe and acceptedWant To Date An INFJ? Here's 15 Things We'd Like You To Know | marissabaker.wordpress.com

This one is huge for INFJs. If you’re not a safe person for us to be around then we either 1) won’t enter a relationship with you or 2) will be trying to get out of the relationship. We desperately need to know you won’t dismiss us. We don’t actually expect you to fully understand all our quirks, nuances, and oddities but we need to know you will accept and even love them. We need to know you’re interested in getting to know the “real” version of us and that you won’t run away when we start opening up. Similarly, we typically have strong values and we’re looking for someone who lines up with them. INFJs can be very accepting of other people’s differences, but the closer you get to us the more closely we want you to line-up with our core beliefs. Read more

Dating Your Mirror: ENFP and INFJ Relationships

Once upon a time, I told my sister, “I don’t think I’d ever date an ENFP.” Even though I’d seen lots of people describing ENFP-INFJ as a “perfect” pairing it just didn’t sound like a good fit for me. I loved having ENFP friends, but the ones I knew were either so intense they made me feel anxious, or so extroverted they wore me out, or too scattered for me to think I wouldn’t eventually get irritated with them in a closer relationship (or all of the above).

Then a few years after making this statement, I started actually getting to know one of my ENFP acquaintances. And now we’re dating (doesn’t that sound like just the sort of coincidence that would happen in a romance  story?). He does have an intense personality but I’ve done enough work overcoming my social anxiety that doesn’t scare me any more (actually, it’s rather exciting). He’s the most extroverted person I know but I’ve discovered it’s not a problem for us. And he’s not scattered or flaky (which, it turns out, is another of those unfair/too widely applied stereotypes bouncing around Myers-Briggs circles).

Dating Your Mirror: ENFP and INFJ Relationships | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Image Credit: Freestocks.org via StockSnap

Now, I could spend the next 1,000+ words telling you about how wonderful my boyfriend is but that’s probably not what you clicked on this post for (if it was I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed). Instead, we’re going to talk about why ENFPs and INFJs have a reputation in Myers-Briggs circles for getting along so well. Read more

INFJs and Relationships: Discover Your Compatibility with Other Types

I’m so excited to have a guest post from Susan Storm today. When we decided to trade guest posts, I asked her for an article on INFJ relationships (which I felt unqualified to write as a very single INFJ) and she sent me this fantastic post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Do you ever feel like finding your way in the dating world is messy and confusing? Are you married and wondering how you can understand your spouse better? As an INFJ blogger I get these types of questions a lot. I get it! Being part of such a rare personality means that finding a like-minded soul can be a huge challenge. I hope this article will encourage you and help you feel more at ease in the world of relationships.

What I’m not going to do:

So you might think I’m going to give you this huge list of personality types that are or are not compatible with INFJs. But I’m not going to go there. I’m a firm believer that any type can be compatible with any other type. Your Myers-Briggs type can only tell you what your preferences are; it won’t tell you who you should or shouldn’t date. The most important thing in any relationship is to understand your partner and try to work together in a way that respects each other’s differences. I really hope this article will help you find some answers to some of the most common questions!

INFJs and Relationships: Discover Your Compatibility with Other Types. Guest post by Susan Storm at marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Frank McKennavia StockSnap

What’s the Most Common INFJ Pairing?

From my own personal experience and from surveys done in various INFJ groups, it seems that INFJs most commonly wind up with XSTP personalities. I get questions about relationships daily, and probably 8 out of 10 INFJs I talk to about relationships are married or dating ISTPs or ESTPs. This seemed crazy initially…I mean, ESTPs and ISTPs are so different from INFJs, right? Plus all the personality dating books say that INFJs should date other intuitives. So why does this pairing occur so frequently?

Here’s my theory:

INFJs and XSTPs have the exact same cognitive functions, but in a completely different order. As people we tend to look for partners that will cause a “balancing” effect. If we’re primarily fueled by emotion and values, we might seek a logic-driven partner (and vice versa). If we’re imaginative and captivated primarily by theoretical possibilities we might seek someone who is grounded in reality and has his feet planted firmly on the ground. Read more

Romance and Outlaws

I listed Lorna Doone as a re-read on my Classics Club book list, but suspect I hadn’t actually read an unabridged version before. I didn’t remember whole pages worth of conversation written in dialect or so much time spent building John and Lorna’s childhood relationship in the first half of the book. Pretty sure I read a copy that modernized the dialogue and skipped straight to the most exciting action. That’s probably why the book felt so long this time through, though I was thoroughly enjoying it by around the half-way point.Lorna Doone: Romance and Outlaws #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Grounded In History

Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R.D. Blackmore is a historical novel published in 1869 and set in the late 1600s. I hadn’t realized before re-reading it how much the novel borrows from real events. My falling apart ex-library copy (published in 1943) even includes pictures of the locations Blackmore references. The brief introduction written by Basil Davenport states, “Blackmore made good use of his schoolboy memories of Devon; the outlaw Doones, the De Whichehalse family, the highwayman Tom Fagus and his mare, and even the mighty John Ridd, have at least some foundation in fact, while the book is full of local historical allusions, like the bales of wool that were used to repel bullets at the siege of Exeter Castle.”

The historical grounding is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this classic novel. It soaks through every page in tiny details, sweeping historical allusions, and our narrator’s word choice. Though I had a little trouble getting really “into” the first half of the story, it’s not because Blackmore isn’t painting an immersive world. Since this is a first-person narrative, we get to see the world through John Ridd’s eyes. And John isn’t shy about sharing his opinions on everything from farming to women to outlawry. It really feels like we’re there listening to John tell the story as he lived it.

Lorna Doone: Romance and Outlaws #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Carl Benton Reid as Sir Ensor Doone and Barbara Hale as Lorna Doone (1951)

Outlaws As Villains

We’ve all read stories where the outlaws are romanticized. Stories with dashing rogues, defensible pirates, and code-following outlaws fill our collective imagination. Not so in Lorna Doone. Even beloved highwayman Tom Fagus must mend his ways and conform to law and order before securing his happy ending. The more prominent outlaws in the story, the Doones, are decidedly cast in the role of the villain. Rather than seeking to romanticize and excuse the outlaws à la Robin Hood, the story focuses on rescuing Lorna (and by extension the romance plot) from them.

Several times, John talks about the Doones as a fixture in the neighborhood. The surrounding people have gotten used to them and they’re willing to put up with certain things. Since the Doones are a noble family, their neighbors consider it their right to steal sheep, run off with a few unmarried women, and even kill people who get in their way. The Ridds and their neighbors even resent external efforts to bring the Doones to justice, partly because they fear pay-back if/when the Doones win and partly because the Doones just seem to belong. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy about having a nest of outlaws in their backyards.

Lorna Doone: Romance and Outlaws #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Polly Walker as Lorna Doone and Sean Bean as Carver Doone (1990)

But What Does It Mean?

Though tolerated and occasionally defended, the Doones are viewed as a local plague, not as tragic heroes or admirable figures. They eventually cross a line and are wiped out by the very people who put up with them for so long. Interestingly, all this happens at a time of political unrest in Britain as a whole and there are numerous tongue-in-cheek references to political corruption and the failures of the nobility. I suspect that on some level at least, we’re meant to identify the overtly lawless Doones with the more subtle legalized injustice running through the British government. And we’re to root for the common man of good sense rising up to put an end to his “betters” ruining the country.

On a more obvious level, Lorna Doone really is a simple romance novel. And while there are plenty of romantic novels I enjoy more, I do love the story. John and Lorna aren’t my favorite literary characters, but even the fact that I didn’t like them 100% is in a way a testament to Blackmore’s writing. Though John is telling the story and he worships Lorna, Blackmore manages not to present either as unrealistically idealized “perfect heroes.” It reads like the honest account of two real people navigating romance in a world of outlaws. And that makes for a good story.

Lorna Doone: Romance and Outlaws #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Amelia Warner as Lorna Doone and Richard Coyle  as John Ridd (2000)

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