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The Rise of Silas Lapham

The Rise of Silas Lapham

The virtue of the novel according to Howells lies in its formal amplitude, its ability to encompass all things, and connect all humanity. The aim of the realistic novel is to “widen the bounds of sympathy” and to proclaim the “equality of things and the unity of men.”

Look at the above in light of the argument Tom Corey has w/ himself after Lapham’s outpouring of shame and self abasement following the disastrous dinner party. Are you convinced? What is at stake? In what way is this a turning point? (p. 197)

Corey does not lower himself to Lapham’s level, but rather reaffirms to himself his superiority over Lapham. He realizes the importance of maintaining his place in society in relation to Lapham, but also must “think the best of Lapham” if he plans to marry his daughter. Lapham’s uncouth showing of humility reminds him of the dinner party fiasco, and likens him to the “plebeian” porter with his “gross appetites,” “blunt sense,” and “stupid arrogance.” Despite his feelings of reproach for Lapham’s behavior, it is his love for Pen which makes him see the positive side of the situation:

“he knew at the bottom of his heart that which must control him last., and which seemed sweetly to be suffering his rebellion, secure of his submission in the end. It was almost with the girl’s voice that it seemed to plead with him…”

Pen, of course, is the one suffering his rebellion, and his rebellion is his urge to reject her for her father’s low demeanor. Yet this passage is Corey’s turning point, where he cements the idea that to love this girl, and love her he must, certain societal sacrifices must be made. The though of Pen works to “set all things in another and fairer light.” It is then that Corey realizes the nobility in Lapham’s seemingly base humility. He is able to see Lapham’s outpouring of shame as something respectable and honorable that would never be found in a person of “society.

Death in Do Not Go Gentle, City Cafeteria, Death Shall Have no Dominion and Grandparents

Death in Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, City Cafeteria, And Death Shall Have no Dominion and Grandparents

Death is a highly personal event. It affects each of us differently. It affected Peter Kocan’s man in the City Cafeteria by making him look empty and disoriented. It affected Dylan Thomas by making him think about what there was afterward, and what you could do to avoid it. Death even affected Robert Lowell by making him realise how much it changed his life. I, fortunately, seem to have avoided death in many ways, but also have been touched by it, even recently.

While preparing for this essay, ironically, one of my family pets died. It was a chicken named Ellephante, which belonged to my younger sister. I didn’t know what to think. I don’t think, even now, several days later, that I feel the chicken has gone. I suppose I’m denying it. I constantly revisit, in my mind, the times I went into my back yard to be greeted with a flutter of wings and a white body racing down the hill to greet me. I imagine this feeling to be similar to the one expressed in Grandparents, by Robert Lowell. He feels, as he walks around the farm, which now belongs to him, certain pangs of loneliness, of missing his grandparents. Small things set him off – the gramophone and the billiard table with the coffee stain. Small things still set my sister off – going up to the chook shed to feed the remaining chooks, or looking out the window and not seeing that other white shape we came to know and love as Ellephante.

Taken before its time (the next-door dog is undoubtably the culprit), I do not feel that Ellephante ‘went gentle into that good night’. Ellephante was a feisty chicken, always very vocal and very affectionate and tame…

… middle of paper …

I look to death as Dylan Thomas does – as a natural progression from life. I don’t know quite what I believe in – some days it’s reincarnation, some days it’s a very scientific returning to a state of atoms in different forms, some days (when I’m upset) it’s just being buried and then it stops, some days it’s being taken from this world to another. I don’t know that I believe in a Heaven or Hell, as such, but it’s nice to think about it some times. Unlike so many people I know, I don’t fear death – I used to, but I have come to accept it as an inevitable part of life, which everyone will have to face. I just know that when it’s my time to depart, I want people to remember the good times and not to dwell on the bad.

“It is as natural to die as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other.”

Francis Bacon – ‘Essays “Of Death”‘

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