Being a minister, Sewell is the counselor to whom Lapham turns for help when Penelope refuses to marry Tom Corey. Sewell, a realist, points out to Mrs. Lapham that Silas is right; Penelope is acting like a ruinous heroine in a romantic novel, and she is not helping Irene by refusing to marry Tom. Her self-sacrifice is ridiculous
Sewell might be considered as a spokesman for Howells. His opinions on the purpose of the realistic novel are similar to those of the novelist.