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

Summary

Silas returns from a conference with a man who wanted to unknowingly invest in the Lapham paint works; his money would have enabled Silas to close with the West Virginians. Silas cannot let him enter into the deal unaware and tells him the condition of his business. The offer is withdrawn, and Silas must put himself in his creditor's hands.

Lapham sells the South End home and moves back to the farm. The West Virginians confess they cannot produce a fine grade of paint like the Persis Brand; they let Silas handle this part of the enterprise after buying the mines and works at Lapham. This purchase relieves Lapham of the load of debt and gives him an interest in the vaster enterprise of the younger men.

Because of Silas good standing with the West Virginians Tom Corey goes with them. After marrying Penelope he goes to Mexico to work in the foreign paint market.

Sewell, the pastor, interested in the moral spectacle which Lapham presented, visits him on the farm. When Sewell asks Lapham his conclusions on the moral question involving Rogers, Lapham replies, "It seems to me that I done wrong about Rogers in the first place. It was just like starting a row of bricks, I tried to catch and stop 'em from going, but they tumbled one after another." The English situation, Silas felt, was like a hole that opened for him, and he crept out.

Analysis

Silas' morality does not fail him in his last temptation to let an unknowing New Yorker invest in his paint works. He returns to his backwoods origins as a final recognition that he finds dignity only in his pioneering traditions. He is a noble savage who does not belong in urban society.

Penelope's marriage does not advance him, for there is no longer any social contact with the Coreys. The Laphams are on the farm, the Coreys are in the city, and Penelope is in Mexico.

Silas' last words with the pastor show him to be aware of the reality of his moral fault. He knows that his act of self-sacrifice was the move that saved his soul, bringing his life to a happy ending after his tragic material downfall.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

At the conclusion of the novel, which of the following statements is not true?




Quiz