Comparing Immorality in The Rise of Silas Lapham and The Octopus
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Motivation of Immorality in The Rise of Silas Lapham and The Octopus
In both William Dean Howells' The Rise of Silas Lapham and The Octopus by Frank Norris, a character is faced with the moral issues involved with operating his business. Howells' character, Silas Lapham (The Colonel) and Norris' Magnus Derrick are both desirous to have a prominent position in their respective societies, but are in the precarious situation of having to deploy immoral methods to achieve this coveted stature during the course of harder times. Each man has aspirations to be powerful, prestigious, famous, and/or wealthy. In combination with their lack of humility for their lofty position in society and their over ambitious definition of success,…show more content…
He desires acceptance as an equal to the socially distinguished Boston family, the Coreys. It is only through the money made from his mineral paint business that lends him the chance to associate with such families.
Silas' rise from poverty was not fully morally sound though, notwithstanding the fact that the product he made his money with was one that was virtually handed to him and that sold itself. In spite of these facts, at an earlier stage in the business, Silas had taken up a partner, Mr. Rogers, to help him financially, and then forced him out before he could make any profit. This move appears to be the first immoral business choice in the career of Silas Lapham. It forces him to be dishonest not only to himself, but to his wife, by driving him to lie about and cover up his inner feelings about what he had done. Although he states that he has a clear conscience concerning the whole affair, he cannot so much as speak directly to the man during a chance meeting on the street. He shies away from the awkward situation entirely, leaving his wife to contend with the betrayed former partner.
Silas attempts to reconcile his deceiving Rogers by calling it a business chance, but his wife refutes by stating,
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