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

Summary

Penelope reveals the predicament to her mother the next day. Mrs. Lapham admits that Irene is not as mentally equal to Tom as Penelope, but she says she did not consider the possibility of Tom loving her older daughter. Although Penelope tried to avoid any personal contact with Tom, she admits that she tried to attract him.

Trying to find a solution to the problem, Penelope suggests the possibility of giving up Tom. "I've read of cases where a girl gives up the man that loves her so as to make the other girl happy that the man doesn't love. That might be done," she says.

"Your father would think you were a fool," retorts Mrs. Lapham.

Persis decides to confer with Silas before she reveals the situation to Irene. She sends a note to Silas, telling him to come home early that afternoon.

Analysis

The incapability of romantic women to face real problems is presented in this chapter. Neither Penelope nor her mother know how to handle the situation. Penelope avoids it by unloading it on her mother, while her mother turns to Silas for an answer.

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