Study Guide

Serena Greed

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"It's best that way," Serena said, stepping back into the room's center. "Not just the money saved but for the men. They'll work harder if they live like Spartans." (1.121)

When Serena finds out that the workers don't have electricity, she tells us just what a great thing that is. Her off handed comment shows us exactly how immaterial the workers are to her—as long as they make her piles of cash, they stay on her good side.

"All for the better," Serena said. "It will make a more effective lesson for the other workers." (2.153)

We'll put it this way: Don't bet against Serena. After Bilded loses his bet about how tall a particular tree is, Serena takes two weeks of his pay and Pemberton fires him. No matter that he has a wife and kids to support…

"As you have guests arriving soon, I'll be brief," Reverend Bolick said, addressing them all but looking specifically at Wilkie. "It's about the pay raise we've discussed. Even half a dollar more a week would make a huge difference, especially for the workers with families." (14.4)

The workers aren't asking for much, and two bucks a month is nothing to the Pembertons, but they cling to it anyway. It's more about power and greed with them, because we know they certainty don't need the money.

"It's very relevant," Serena said. "My experience has been that altruism is invariably a means to conceal one's personal failures." (14.27)

This pretty much sums up Serena. She doesn't see the point in doing good (a.k.a. altruism) because all it means is that you've failed at something. Yikes, right? Serena is so greedy that she believes everyone else is as tight-fisted as she is with time and money.

"We need Harris' money," Serena said. "We'll have to humor him, this time, but have Lawyer Covington put in the contract that Harris can't begin any mining operations until the site's timber is cut. Harris has found something up there besides kaolin and some copper, something he doesn't want us to know about. We'll hire our own geologist and find out what it is, then refuse to cut the timber until Harris gives us a percentage, a good percentage." (18.19)

Here we see Serena's negotiating skills with a business partner. We'd like to point out that the Pembertons have already made a boatload of cash in their timber business and stand to make way more with this new venture. Of course, that's not good enough for Serena, though. She needs to stiff Harris in the process.

"My husband and I are more ambitious than that," Serena said. "I think you will be also, once you learn of the possibilities." (24.26)

To Serena, sticking in North Carolina is just bad business. She knows that there's money to be made in the U.S., but she wants to conquer the world… or at least Brazil. Here, she explains her next plan to investors to get them to buy in as well.

"Why would anyone be envious," Serena said. "It's merely a bunch of baubles. Expensive baubles, but of what use?" (24.59)

What we find interesting about Serena is that she's not into fancy things. Nope, she doesn't spend her cash on fancy paintings or designer clothes like the Cecils. Instead, she wants the money to prove her worth as a partner and woman. Consider it greed with a twist.

"That others can make us vulnerable and the sooner such vulnerabilities are dealt with the better." (25.26)

Serena views Harris's scheming to mine gems out of their land as nothing short of a betrayal. It's not about the money, though—she hates the idea that someone can take away what is rightfully hers. Well, in her mind at least.

"To partnerships, and all that's possible," Serena said. "The world is ripe, and we'll pluck it like an apple from a tree." (36.48)

At Pemberton's birthday dinner, Serena makes a toast which tells us a lot about her appetite for success. For those of you not paying attention, she wants it. In fact, she lays claim to the entire world here.

"Give us a lifetime and Mrs. Pemberton and I will cut down every tree, not just in Brazil but in the world." (36.104)

We should point out that it's not just Serena who is greedy. Her hubby does his fair share of greedy things, too, and here he tells everyone that he and Serena will keep cutting trees until there are none left. You know what? We believe him.

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