The Rise of Silas Lapham By William Dean Howells Summary and Analysis Chapter VIII

Summary

Mrs. Corey returns suddenly to check on Tom and is horrified that he has been taken into Silas' business. Bromfield says that he couldn't have been stopped; Tom would pay no heed to their opinions in this matter. Bromfield realizes that Tom is energetic but not brilliant; he does not think Tom would succeed in a profession, but he knows Tom wants to do something. Mineral paint is not much different from the other things Tom could go into, Bromfield feels.

Mrs. Corey objects more to the possibility of marriage between Tom and Irene than to Tom's going into the Lapham enterprise. She feels she could not get along with Irene, whom she says is insipid. "There is nothing to her," she states.

"The chief consolation that we American parents have in these matters is that we can do nothing," Bromfield consoles his wife. Parents no longer wholeheartedly interfere in marriage, he points out. "To which father in our acquaintance shall I go and propose an alliance for Tom with his daughter? I should feel like an ass," Bromfield observes.

Mrs. Corey resolves to speak to Tom about Irene when the time comes.

When Tom returns from his stay at the Laphams, Mrs. Corey tries to feel out any possibility of a love affair with Irene. She learns only that Tom's Uncle Jim has suggested the business venture, Penelope has a droll sense of humor, and Irene has a wonderful complexion. She reports to her husband that she has found out very little about the possibility of a romance between Tom and Irene. She states that she has found him with his mind made up concerning the business venture. She also realizes that there will be nothing she can do if Tom decides to marry Irene, but she hopes that he will not. Defeated Mrs. Corey returns to the resort.

Tom has become engrossed in his work, and, upon returning to the office to pick up some work, he encounters a mysterious rendezvous between Silas and Zerrilla, a girl Lapham employs. Walker, the head bookkeeper, points out to Tom the next day that Lapham has always been secretive about the typist.

Analysis

This chapter recalls the Coreys' dislike for the Laphams, Tom's activeness in contrast with his father's passiveness, and the possibility of a romance between Tom and Irene. Even the Coreys are too romantic to ascertain that Tom, who talks mostly of Penelope, is attracted to her instead.

The mystery of Silas' connection with the typist is increased by Tom's encounter with her and by Walker's comments.

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