Study Guide

Serena Perseverance

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There's a woman here who wishes to be introduced to you, Mr. Pemberton, the matron had said. I should caution you, though. She has frightened off every other bachelor in Boston. Pemberton recalled how he'd assured the matron he was not a man easily frightened, that perhaps the woman in question might need to be cautioned about him as well. […] Let us go meet her then. Just remember you were warned, just as I've warned her. (1.145)

Here Pemberton remembers meeting Serena for the first time. Notice how the word warned pops up. Sure, that probably has everything to do with gender roles, but it's also fair to say that Pemberton should be warned about this woman (who eventually kills him). Foreshadowing, much?

"What then did my fellow healer ascribe your survival to?" Serena looked steadily at Cheney, her eyes as inexpressive as her tone. "He said I simply refused to die." (2.98)

We'd believe it. If anyone could survive a fever that killed her entire family, it would be Serena. She's got more stubbornness in her pinky finger than most people have in their whole lifetimes.

"It's a hard place this world can be. No wonder a baby cries coming into it." (3.20)

True story, Widow Jenkins. The world can be a tough place, and it chews you up and spits you out as soon as it's done. Perseverance is the name of the game.

As she told herself this, Rachel felt the grief inside grow so wide and deep it felt like a dark fathomless pool she'd never emerge from. Because there was nothing left to do now, nothing except endure it. (3.56)

Dealing with her dad's death, Rachel figures there's nothing more she can do. She has to get on with her life. It's a tough time for her, but Rachel comes through it with shining colors. She's as strong as the best of them, but just doesn't realize it yet.

For two nights and a day Serena did not leave the stall. It was late morning of the second day when she came to the office. Dark half-moons lined the underside of Serena's eyes, her hair matted and straw-strewn. (8.22)

Let's put it this way: Serena is so perseverant that she trains an eagle to hunt for her. She proves that she can think way outside the box by fixing the rattlesnake problem in this bizarre way. Bonus for not sleeping or eating for several days to get the job done.

From October until May, snow and ice clung to the ridges. Several men died when they slipped trying to avoid falling trees or limbs. Another tumbled off a cliff edge and one impaled himself on his own axe and still another was beheaded by a snapped cable. A cutting crew lost its way during a snowstorm in January and was found days later, their palms peeling off when searchers pried the axe handles from their frozen hands. Fingers or toes lost to frostbite were among the season's lesser hazards. (10.1)

Every now and again, we're reminded that life was hard in the 1930s on a timber ranch. People are losing fingers and toes left and right, so it's no wonder the workers have a strong backbone. Perseverance is just a way of life in these parts.

"Yes," the doctor said. "Your wife's constitution is quite remarkable, so unless something unforeseen occurs, she'll recover." (21.69)

The doc in the hospital tells Pemberton that he has one strong gal for a wife. Pemberton probably doesn't need some doc to remind him, though. We see here how Serena defies the odds once again by surviving something that most women die from.

Serena was pale but her gray eyes were open and staring at a sky she'd not seen in seven days. The workers watched in silence as Campbell and Pemberton carried her through the camp to the house. They watched in wonder as well, especially men whose mothers and sisters and wives had died from what Serena survived. (22.1)

Returning home from her miscarriage, Serena causes quite a shock for the workers. We get the sense that she thrives when she should fail, which only makes everyone else run in fear. The fact that she had a miscarriage only strengthens her resolve for the next obstacle to come her way.

He also realized something else, that Serena would be able to convince Lowenstein and Calhoun to invest in her Brazil venture. Like her husband, they would believe her capable of anything. (24.107)

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Asking investors to fund an operation thousands of miles away in Brazil seems like a pipe dream, but somehow Serena manages to get it done. Perhaps it's her stubbornness and resolve that pushes her to succeed. Or everyone else's latent fear of her that makes them agree. Either way, she's golden.

Serena had still been standing but the guard swore that she was already dead. Those among the towns-people who'd known her, including the police chief and the doctor, had no doubts at all as to the veracity of this aspect of the guard's account. (Coda.7)

In the end Serena dies, too, but she doesn't take this development lying down. Nope, she stands right until the bitter end, showing that even in the face of death she's too stubborn to play by anyone's rules.

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