Howells' best-known work and a subtle classic of its time, The Rise of Silas Lapham is an elegant tale of Boston society and manners. After garnering a fortune in the paint business, Silas Lapham moves his family from their Vermont farm to the city of Boston in order to improve his social position. The consequences of this endeavor are both humorous and tragic as the greedy Silas brings his company to the brink of bankruptcy. The novel focuses on important themes in the American literary tradition-the efficacy of self-help and determination, the ambiguous benefits of social and economic progress, and the continual contradiction between urban and pastoral values-and provides a paradigm of American culture in the Gilded Age.
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