In William Dean Howells’ novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham Silas is a very greedy selfish person who does not care about anything except climbing the social ladder. He has false social aspirations and his lust for power help his business to flourish as he rips people off and steels people’s money. As Silas begins to get higher and higher on the social ladder he begins to realize that his dreams are empty and have no real value as he achieves them. His greed and selfishness then come back to haunt him causing him to feel pain over things that he had done and while trying to rectify his wrongs he goes too far and fails his business. Silas Lapham’s character shift from selfish greed to honest unselfishness caused the collapse of his business and the loss of his money.
In the beginning of The Rise of Silas Lapham the character of Silas is already very rich and very successful, but as you go deeper into the character there are problems that arise. After Lapham runs into Rogers, an old business associate whom he had forced out of the company, he tells his wife, “ I hadn’t anything to say to him…I supposed he was dead…[and] I should want you should recollect in the first place, Persis, that I never wanted a partner.” (46). Lapham has no regrets about what he did to Rogers, and it is this selfishness that caused his business to sky rocket. After the discussion with Rogers Mrs. Lapham tries to get Silas to admit his mistake when she says:
No; you had better face the truth, Silas. It was no chance at all. You crowded him out. A man that 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)
The greed of Silas Lapham led him to remove his partner in business who had saved him from going out of business by lending him money, because Silas knew that his business was going to go up exponentially and he did not want to share it with anyone else. Silas’s hunger for power and money cause him to not have any morals, betray the people closest to him, and not have a second thought about it. When Mrs. Lapham tries to get him to admit that he made a mistake pushing Rogers out of the company Lapham says, “Well, if I hadn’t got him out he’d ‘a’ ruined me sooner or later. So it’s an even thing, as far forth as that goes.” (47) The only thing that matters to Silas is climbing the social ladder and bringing his family to the top. This is shown through that fact that he screwed over the man that saved his business and yet “he’d ‘a’ ruined me sooner or later”. Silas doesn’t care about anyone but himself and even though this is a terrible way to live it causes his business to grow exponential getting him closer and closer to what he has always wanted.
Silas thinks that building his family a new house will help them rise in social status and it is in building this house that his shift in character originates. Silas’s character shift begins when he tells his wife about his...