The Rise of Silas Lapham
The virtue of the novel according to Howells lies in its formal amplitude, its ability to encompass all things, and connect all humanity. The aim of the realistic novel is to "widen the bounds of sympathy" and to proclaim the "equality of things and the unity of men."
Look at the above in light of the argument Tom Corey has w/ himself after Lapham's outpouring of shame and self abasement following the disastrous dinner party. Are you convinced? What is at stake? In what way is this a turning point? (p. 197)
Corey does not lower himself to Lapham's level, but rather reaffirms to himself his superiority over Lapham. He realizes the importance of maintaining his place in society in relation to Lapham, but also must "think the best of Lapham" if he plans to marry his daughter. Lapham's uncouth showing of humility reminds him of the dinner party fiasco, and likens him to the "plebeian" porter with his "gross appetites," "blunt sense," and "stupid arrogance." Despite his feelings of reproach for Lapham's behavior, it is his love for Pen which makes him see the positive side of the situation:
"he knew at the bottom of his heart that which must control him last., and which seemed sweetly to be suffering his rebellion, secure of his submission in the end. It was almost with the girl's voice that it seemed to plead with him..."
Pen, of course, is the one suffering his rebellion, and his rebellion is his urge to reject her for her father's low demeanor. Yet this passage is Corey's turning point, where he cements the idea that to love this girl, and love her he must, certain societal sacrifices must be made. The though of Pen works to "set all things in another and fairer light." It is then that Corey realizes the nobility in Lapham's seemingly base humility. He is able to see Lapham's outpouring of shame as something respectable and honorable that would never be found in a person of "society." This is the honesty and righteousness for which Corey has always admired Lapham. In this sense, Corey is able to meet both ends. Despite either of Corey's feelings, it is Lapham's outpouring which finally brings Corey to propose to Pen. Lapham's supreme humility seemed to rub off on Corey, who had been procrastinating in his proposal for fear of social differences. Corey was shown how lacking he had been in humility from a man to whom he had always a sense of superiority
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