The Rise of Silas Lapham Study Guide

The Rise of Silas Lapham Study Guide

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The Rise of Silas Lapham

The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells is a realistic sentimental novel that is considered the classic of realistic writing until the present day. Howells portrayal of the love triangle between young Tom and the two Lapham daughters, smart Penelope and beautiful Irene, was often criticized for being plain and too mundane for the romantic story, but the critics almost always agreed at the point that this romantic encounter was shown as it usually happens in real life: without overly dramatic and excessive emotions, but sincerely and plausibly. This is what realism is meant for: not everyone can relate to the story of Romeo and Juliet, but Tom, Penelope and Irene are the ones we can perfectly understand.

The second - or rather the first - storyline of the novel is, exactly, the rise of the Lapham family. The story starts from Silas Lapham being interviewed by a journalist about his sudden and incredible success. Silas made a revolution in the painting business, setting a new trend and earning a great fortune in mere months. He absolutely isn’t shy about it, moving to the most popular district of Boston and building there a house that shows off his wealth and the sense of taste. But deep inside the innate fear of class difference still eats Mr. Lapham. He is afraid that, despite all his wealth, he won’t be accepted by the upper-crust society of Boston. The things get even more complicated when his former partner shows on the horizon. We realize that Lapham wasn’t the only inventor of the new paint trend and his success was based on brutally pushing another man away. We see that even living amongst the hypocritical and snobbish people of the rich districts, Silas Lapham and his wife still have enough conscience to be tormented by it and try to undo the harm they caused at the beginning of their way. To the very end of the novel we don’t know if they manage to preserve both their wealth and their identity of honest people and if Toms interest to the Lapham daughters is sincere or just a desire to enter the rich family and join the already established and successful business.

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The Rise of Silas Lapham Quotes with Page Number

“Those novels with old-fashioned heroes and heroines in them -- are ruinous!” — Page 432 — “Each one of us must suffer long to himself before he can learn that he is but one in a great community of wretchedness which has been pitilessly repeating itself from the foundation of the world.” — — “If...

``The Rise of Silas Lapham'' by Dean Howells

Introduction The ``Gilded Age'' in American history is marked by the growth of industry and wave of immigrants along the territorial arena. Coined by Mark Twain, the age refers to the period of conspicuous luxury yet corrupted beneath. There was a development in railroad industry, and steel and...

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