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

Summary

Lapham, on Bellingham's advice, goes to New York to ask the West Virginians for more time to raise the money. Mrs. Lapham, who feels remorse in not being able to help her husband make his decision in the English matter, attempts to visit him at his office for the first time in a year. She finds him gone and his typist in his office. When she returns home, she receives an anonymous note telling her to ask her husband who his typist is. This leads her to think Silas has been keeping a mistress; she has deduced that the girl could be "Mrs. M." — the name on the scrap of paper she found after Silas had torn the "Wm. M." payment slip apart. In a rage, she confronts him with this question when he returns. He does not answers her question and leaves for the town of Lapham without her knowing it.

Persis goes to his office only to discover that the typist is Zerrilla Millon Dewey, the daughter of the man who saved her husband's life. The misunderstanding resolved, she returns home to spend the day in self-reproach, wondering if Silas will ever return. Finally, she sends a note to Tom Corey to discover Silas' whereabouts. Irene returns, angry that they did not inform her of the trouble sooner; she starts to help by putting the household matters in order.

The next morning Tom tells his mother to visit the Laphams, indicating that he still intends to marry Penelope. The Coreys are caught in a trap. They have always said that they never cared for money. "And now we can't seem to care for the loss of it," Bromfield says. "That would be still worse."

Analysis

Mrs. Lapham as a romantic, unrealistic woman has completely failed her husband. She tries to be his conscience but could not help him decide whether or not to sell to the English. She would have let him sell and then plagued him with the need for repentance. This reaction is due to her romantic longings for wealth and her Puritan abhorrence for sin. She even fails to trust him in the case of Zerrilla and is shown to be foolish in her fears.

The Coreys are again shown as tolerant people who decide that they must pay the Lapham's a visit to acknowledge the love affair. They are fatalists and accept the worst.

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