Fractured Identities, Moral Mediations, and Cancerous Aspirations of Madeline Lee and Silas Lapham: The Allure of Power versus the New Woman and the Nouveau Riche Man

Karly Berezowsky


I provide a critical analysis of literary democracy within The Rise of Silas Lapham and Democracy. I attempt to advance an original view of why the American Realism literary movement should include tropes not only of the figure of the New Woman, but also those of the figure of the Nouveau Riche man. It will further illustrate how the protagonists’ morals drive them to rebel against their personal ambitions, their oppressive environments, and their behavioral conditioning — thus provoking them to act other than as society would dictate.



Keywords: Democracy; Locational Vulnerability; Confinement; Fractured Identity; Agency.

Full Text:



Adams, Henry. Democracy: An American Novel. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.

Adams, Richard C. “Henry Adams's Sympathetic Economy.” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 34.2 (2001): 29-50. JSTOR. Web.

Carruthers, Bruce G., and Sarah L. Babb. Economy/Society: Markets, Meanings, and Social Structure. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2000. 33. Print.

Colacurcio, Michael. “Democracy and Esther: Henry Adams' Flirtation with Pragmatism.” American Quarterly 19.1 (1967): 53-70. JSTOR. Web.

Gilley, B. H. “Democracy: Henry Adams and the Role of Political Leader.” Biography 14.4 (1991): 349-65. Project MUSE. Web.

Guldager, C. “William Dean Howells: The Lookout on the Watchtower.” Modern Age 38 (1996): 237-244. Print.

Hamilton, Geordie. “Rethinking the Politics of American Realism Through the Narrative Form and Moral Rhetoric of W. D. Howells’ The Rise of Silas Lapham.” American Literary Realism 42.1 (2009): 13-35. Project MUSE. Web.

Howells, William Dean. The Rise of Silas Lapham: An Authoritative Text, Composition and Backgrounds, Contemporary Responses, Criticism. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982. Print.

LaBarbera, Priscilla A. “The Nouveaux Riches: Conspicuous Consumption and the Issue of Self-Fulfillment.” Research in Consumer Behavior 3. Greenwich: JAI Press, 1988. 179-210. Print.

Lavin, Matthew J. “Clean Hands and an Iron Face: Frontier Masculinity and Boston Manliness in The Rise of Silas Lapham.” Western American Literature 45.4 (2011): 362-82. Project MUSE. Web.

Marchand, Mary. “Faking It: Social Bluffing and Class Difference in Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham.” New England Quarterly 83.2 (2010): 283-312. ProQuest. Web.

Minh-ha, Trinh T. Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.1989. Print.

“Nouveau Riche, n.” The Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press, March 2014. Web. 18 April 2014. Print.

Rose, Gillian. “A Politics of Paradoxical Space.” In Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1993. 137-60. Print.

Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class; an Economic Study of Institutions. New York: Modern Library, 1934. Print.

West, B. June. “The ‘New Woman’” Twentieth Century Literature 1.2 (1955): 55-68. JSTOR. Web.


  • There are currently no refbacks.