Tom Corey, in a way, replaces the son Silas Lapham lost at birth. Silas takes him as a son-in-law and as an employee. After Silas meets Tom, he says, "I tell you if I had that fellow in the business with me I would make a man of him." Silas places more importance on Tom being a man than ason-in4aw when he says, "He ain't going to take hold at all, if he don't mean paint in the first place and Irene afterward."
Tom does mean paint first, for he is energetic and career-minded, telling his father that he needs more than marriage to occupy him. His mother and father both recognize that he is not witty but a sympathetic listener to his father's wit. He has a clear mind which brings practical results with charming lucidity. He is popular because he does not try to outshine others.
He is a realist, seeing that he needs more than beauty in a wife and that he must use his energies to create a society based on energy and intelligence. He combines Silas' aggressiveness with Bromfield's good breeding to form a more solid American citizen for society.