Study Guide

Serena Gender

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Look no further than the first chapter of Serena to come across the gender theme in this book. Remember when Serena steps off the train and is wearing—the horror—pants? No one knows what to do. That, dear Shmoopers, is the gender theme in action, asking us to think about gender roles particularly as they relate to limits placed on women. Everyone seems to have an opinion about how men and women should behave in this book, from Pemberton's business partners right down to the workers. If you take a good look at the main women, though, you'll notice neither Serena nor Rachel stick to what is expected of them. Take that, gender roles.

Questions About Gender

  1. What are the expectations for women in the novel? How do Rachel and Serena compare to these? How do men treat these women with regards to gender roles?
  2. Are the men in the novel constrained by gender roles? How do people perceive Pemberton because of his wife?
  3. Think about the women in this book. Who would you characterize as the most stereotypically feminine? Why?
  4. How are Rachel and Serena similar? In what ways does their social class matter more in society than their gender?

Chew on This

Serena shows the inaccuracy of genders roles because Serena manages to take control of her life, despite society's limited expectations of her.

While Serena breaks gendered expectations for her time, she still needs Pemberton to get the job done. Gender roles might be inaccurate but they're still forces to be reckoned with.

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