Foreign Affairs



The two major novels of the 1950s, My Cousin Rachel (1951) and The Scapegoat (1957), in spite of their differences in setting and period, do have significant similarities. Although the former is an historical novel set in the Cornwall of the early nineteenth century and The Scapegoat is set in contemporary rural France, both are first person narratives and in each case the narrator is a man; thus du Maurier in the 1950s reverts to the male narrative persona with which she had experimented in the early novel, I’ll Never be Young Again. In both novels, too, the notion of ‘foreignness’ is used to explore divisions within the subject. This is represented in the first novel by the half-Cornish, half-Italian Rachel who is culturally more akin to her Italian mother than her Cornish father. In the second the representation is much more complex as the narrator, John, finds himself the foreigner in a French context where he has unwillingly changed identities with his French double, Jean de Gué. My Cousin Rachel echoes both Rebecca and The King’s General in exploring identity through a triangulated relationship, in this case between the narrator (a young man called Philip Ashley), his dead cousin Ambrose and Ambrose’s widow, Rachel.


Family Business Foreign Affair Obsessional Passion Christmas Tree Solitary Life 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Margaret Forster, Daphne du Maurier (London: Chatto and Windus, 1993) pp. 255–6.Google Scholar
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    Oriel Malet, Daphne du Maurier: Letters from Menabilly — Portrait of a Friendship (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1993) pp.80 and 133.Google Scholar
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    Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves (trans. Leon S. Roudiez) (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991) p. 191.Google Scholar
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    Anne Williams, Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1995) p. 95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Luce Irigaray, ‘Women-mothers, the silent substratum’, in Margaret Whitford (ed.), The Irigaray Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) p. 47.Google Scholar
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    William Patrick Day, In the Circles of Fear and Desire: A Study of Gothic Fantasy (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1985) p. 19.Google Scholar
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    Phillipe Sollers, Théories des Exceptions, cited in John Lechte, Julia Kristeva (London: Routledge, 1990) p.13.Google Scholar
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    Karl Miller, Doubles: Studies in Literary History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985) p. 14.Google Scholar
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    Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), p. 153.Google Scholar
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    Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) p. 313.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik 1998

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