The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells Essay

The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells Essay

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The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells


In the novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham, William Dean Howells makes a particular point about the morals of an individual in the business world. His point is that an individual, such as Silas, must check their morals at the door if they have any plans to make it in the business world. The novel has always been popular, partly because it presents Lapham's financial and social failure as "consciously and deliberately chosen" when he has to decide whether he shall cheat and stay on top in business or tell the truth and fail irrecoverably (Gibson 283). The Rise of Silas Lapham is a novel that deals with the potential moral corruption of a man by money. The outward signs of Silas Lapham's corruption are his attempts to buy his way into social acceptance with a costly house and to buy his way out of moral responsibility through the deliberately unwise loan to a former partner and victim. The loan, made with money that his wife prevented him from spending on the house, is a complication that is neither accidental nor trivial. His eventual "rise" is a moral one resulting from the rejection of a legally sound but purely materialistic standard. It is accompanied by a corresponding adjustment in his understanding of the meaning of social differences, and a return to the "tradition" which had given his own family life solidity and dignity (Bennet 150). By using setting, symbolism and characterization, William Dean Howells writes about the conflicts of an individual and the world of big business, in the 19th century.
The setting is a crucial part of the story. The Rise of Silas Lapham is set in the city of Boston, Massachusetts in the late 19th century. If the story where set anyw...


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...terature. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol. 3. Marshall Cavendice Corporation: New York, 1991. 932-945.

Kirk, Clara Manburg. W.D. Howells and Art In His Time. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1965.

Petry, Alice Hall. "William Dean Howells." Critical Survey of Long Fiction. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol. 4. Englewood Cliffs: Salem Press, 1983. 1,368-1,379.

Pizer, Donald. "The Ethnical Unity of The Rise of Silas Lapham." Critics on William Dean Howells. Ed. Paul A. Eschholz. Coral Garden: University of Miami Press. 80-83.

"Portrait Of An American." William Dean Howells: The Development of A Novelist. Ed. George N. Bennet. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959. 50-51, 80-81, 150-161.

Scudder, Horace E. "Recent American Fiction." Critical Essays On William Dean Howells, 1866-1920. Ed. Edwin H. Cady and Norma W. Cady. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1983. 37-57

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