"Are they any better than we are? My note of hand would be worth ten times what Bromfield Corey's is on the street to-day. And I made my money. I haven't loafed my life away."
"Oh, it isn't what you've got, and it isn't what you've done exactly. It's what you are."
"I must say he has behaved very well--like a gentleman"
"I'm not surprised."
"I am. It's hard to behave like a gentleman where your interest is vitally concerned. And Lapham doesn't strike me as a man who's in the habit of acting from the best in him always."
"Do any of us?", asked Corey.
"Not all of us, at any rate," said Bellingham.
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The Rise of Silas Lapham is a novel written by William Dean Howells in 1885 about the materialistic rise of Silas Lapham from rags to riches, and his ensuing moral susceptibility. Silas earns a fortune in the paint business, but he lacks social standards, which he tries to attain through his daughter's marriage to the aristocratic Corey family. Silas's morality does not fail him. He loses his money but makes the right moral decision when his partner proposes the unethical selling of the mills to English settlers.
Howells is known to be the father of American realism, and a denouncer of the sentimental novel. The love triangle of Irene Lapham, Tom Corey, and Penelope Lapham highlights Howells' views of sentimental novels as unrealistic and deceitful. It is believed that Howells's own daughter suffered from anorexia and depression, ending in her death by heart attack in 1889. This was supposedly because of her interest in just such sentimental novels, which glorified unrealistic heroes and heroines.