Study Guide

Sheriff McDowell in Serena

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Sheriff McDowell

There's a new sheriff in town. That is, after McDowell makes an enemy out of the Pembertons. We know the guy has it coming when he makes it his sole purpose in life to take the timber couple down. Yet, he's one of the good guys… right?

Let's look at the evidence. He starts out as honorable by not taking any bribes from Pemberton, proving he won't look the other way just because Pemberton is rich and connected. Then he risks his life to save Rachel and Jacob. Yep, we'd call him a good guy.

There's just one problem, though: Before long, McDowell gets down in the mud with the rest of them. He claims, "'I'm hoping there'll be another way'" (29.31) when Rachel asks if he's going to kill Pemberton, and later the Pembertons' house goes up in smoke and we're told: "The man watched the flames, seemingly oblivious to the workers who rushed and shouted around him. On the ground beside the chair was an empty ten-gallon canister of kerosene" (32.12). In the end, the sheriff realizes the only way to beat Pemberton is to play at his own game. Too bad it kills them both.

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