The Rise of Silas Lapham Author:William Dean Howells Howells believed that the novel had been misused by the romanticists, who emphasized and exaggerated the unusual. He saw the novel as a vehicle for helping man to understand himself and his world through seeing the ordinary depicted as it really is. The novel was to be a true "slice of life," highlighting neither its glorious nor its tawdry side... more ». No person or activity should be considered too commonplace for the artist.
The Rise of Silas Lapham is Howell's masterpiece of fiction, and is undoubtedly his most popular novel. The glory of the work stems from the characters and their development through interaction with each other and with their daily experiences. The greatness of Silas is that he is not a unique individual. His heroism could well be the courage and persistence of any man.
In Howell's gentle and understanding way of handling characters, he has been compared to the master, Henry James. A contemporary said of Howells, "...if he does not know his own countrymen and countrywomen more intimately than Mr. James, at least he loves them better..."