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Change In Heart Essay

1625 words - 7 pages

In the novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham, by William Dean Howells, the character of Silas Lapham is a very wealthy man. He gains his wealth by finding a new paint source in his own yard. He then becomes very wealthy from his new discovery and obtains more money than he can deal with. Along with the money Silas gains a sense of self pride, which comes with being rich. Due to his pride, Silas becomes selfish and conceited, as if he rules the world. He spends his money ruthlessly on things just because he likes them, or because he thinks it would impress others. There comes a time when Silas is no longer on top of the world, and his life starts to go downhill and he gets caught in the web of misfortune. As his motives change from selfish to caring Silas is able to find hope when all seems lost.
Silas is never satisfied. Though he has everything that he could possibly need or want, he still wants more. His greed is shown when his wife, Mrs. Lapham, reminds him, ‘“No you had better face the truth, Silas. It was no chance at all. You crowded him out. A man that had saved you! No, you had got greedy, Silas. You had made your paint your god, and you couldn’t bear to let anybody else share in its blessings”’ (47). Silas is not content with his power in his business, so he forces his partner, Mr. Rogers, to buy out and leave the business. This allows Silas to have the entire profit from the paint, as well as all of the credit for the successful business. Silas puts his desires before the needs of Mr. Rogers. He does not think about Mr. Rogers not having a job, or any way to provide for his family. Instead he just thinks about how he will benefit from Rogers’s loss. Also Lapham expresses his selfishness to Tom Corey when he joins Lapham’s business. Lapham allows him to join his business but, “Lapham had the pride of self- making and he would not openly lower his crest to the young fellow he had taken into his business” (108). The crest is a symbol of Lapham, and in keeping it from Corey, Lapham shows that he is not going to surrender any part of himself to the young man. This includes his business, as he feels that “His paint is something more than a business to him; it was a sentiment, almost a passion” (50). Like with Rogers, Silas does not want Tom Corey to have any power in the paint business. He feels that it is his business and he should have all of the control over it. His attitude shows that Silas has not changed since Rogers and that he is still the selfish and greedy man he was then.
Once he loses everything, Silas realizes that what he thinks he cares about really does not matter at all. What Silas thinks he cares about is his status in society, and money. And he feels as though the two of them put together is the measure of a man’s wealth. When talking to his wife about their daughters, Silas states, ‘“Why don’t you get them into society?”’ (30), revealing how important society is to him. He also shows that he believes money can buy him...

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