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

Summary

Tom, finding one of the Lapham girls quite charming, asks his father to visit Lapham. Bromfield decides to do it immediately the next morning.

Considering the Laphams move to the New Land, Bromfield asks Tom if the Laphams will be a great addition to society.

"No one can help feeling that they are all people of good sense and — right ideas," Tom replies.

"Oh, that won't do. Society is a very different sort of thing from good sense and right ideas. It is based upon them, of course, but the airy, graceful, winning superstructure which we all know demands different qualities. Have your friends got these qualities — which may be felt, but not defined?"

Tom must admit that the Laphams do not have these "felt" qualities.

When Bromfield visits Lapham's office, Silas' treatment of him is condescending, reducing Bromfield to the father of the boy to whom he generously gave employment.

At home that evening, Silas suggests inviting the Coreys to a housewarming, and his wife completely upbraids him for suggesting to take the first step. Their quarrel causes him sleeplessness, and he remains at home the next day. Tom Corey calls to see if Silas is well and is left alone in the parlor with Irene. He pays another visit later in the week and, again, is left alone with her. When he asks about Penelope, Irene persuades her sister to join them. Afterward Mrs. Lapham asks Penelope if Tom ever says anything about Irene. Penelope says that he has never mentioned Irene to her.

Confronting Silas with the problem, Persis says, "I can't make out whether he cares for her or not."

Analysis

Even now, when unknowingly Lapham is on the road to destruction, he is prideful to the point of insulting Bromfield Corey by his condescending attitude. His tragic fall is near, and, yet like other tragic figures, he is not aware of his fate until it happens. Only at the moment of his defeat will Lapham realize his tragic flaws of pride and greed.

Leaving Tom Corey and Irene alone advances the romantic love affair that has been built up in the minds of the Laphams. Still, Mrs. Lapham, who is somewhat perceptive, notes that Tom is not making the usual overtures about Irene.

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