Study Guide

Serena Principles

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President Eisenhower once said, "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." Too bad for Serena and Pemberton because they definitely care more about their cozy lifestyle than doing the right thing. By contrast, Sheriff McDowell and Joel Vaughn risk their own necks to help save Rachel and Jacob.

Serena offers us different views of principles. Some characters have none while others are more flexible on theirs—remember that even McDowell and Rachel are willing to commit murder in the end. The truth is that the book never gives us an answer one way or another about how much principles matter or how they can change in different situations. That, Shmoopers, is left up to us to decide for ourselves.

Questions About Principles

  1. Who is the most principled character in Serena? Where do you think these principles come from?
  2. The workers know that working for the Pembertons compromises their principles, but they need the money. Do you think this makes them un-principled? Why or why not?
  3. What are some of your principles? Would you quit your job if one of those principles were violated?

Chew on This

Even though the workers and McDowell hate the Pembertons' lack of principles, they don't have them either when it comes down to it.

While the workers know the Pembertons compromise their principles, they don't have a choice about working for them because it's super hard to get work and their families have to eat. Serena shows us that principles are a privilege.

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