Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Rise of Silas Lapham and Wealth

While reading the Rise of Silas Lapham, the thing that interested me the most was the views on money. When it was inherited, it was considered classy and something to be proud of, but when it was earned and wealth was gained from hard work, it was not seen as something so impressive. Living in today's society, this is very odd. At least for me it was. People now-a-days can start from nothing and become famous movie stars or musicians and it is definitely something to be proud of. Or Bill Gates, how he built his fortune off of pure hard work.
Back in the time that this book took place, working was seen as something that the lower class did. So I suppose that the fact that even though Silas was rich, did not change the fact that working was something that he had in common with the lower class. It almost reminds me of the days when people could tell class by whether or not they were pale or tan. If you were tan, it meant you worked in the fields, and therefore were seen as the lower class. Here, working, period, is considered the thing that makes you lower class or at least not as good as the wealthy who inherited their money.
It also had a lot to do with the name that came with the money. The name of the family a lot of time held the most significance. Money will give a name a good reputation and make it commonly known. It was heritage not only through the money, but the name. Aristocracy was passed down from generation to generation with the money and the name. When some new family came in and started earning their own title, it could probably almost be seen as an insult to the families that had held their high class through the ages.
The reason the views on earned money and inherited money seems so odd present day, is because we are a society, a nation, built off of a chance to make something of yourself. This is looked up to now, because it gives everyone hope to become something better and make a mark in history. Although, if you look at famous people, you can still see how being an heir or an heiress can give you fame and class. Just look at Paris Hilton, the heiress to the Hilton fortune. She did not do anything to become famous. She was just born rich. I guess present day, being rich and/or famous is something looked up to. Whether or not it was inherited or earned.


  1. Your comment about the difference between inherited and new money is right, Ashleigh. To criticize new money, as Bromfield Corey does, seems to go against what America is about--and, of course, Bromfield has spent a lot of time in Europe.

  2. Yes I find it really interesting how ideas of social class have changed. At least where I'm from it's the norm to get an after school job or at least a summer job when you turn 16 or 17 and you're viewed as lazy if you never work. It was the total opposite in the 19th century - people who had to work at a young age did it out of absoulte necessity and because they weren't in school.

    Natalie Bryant

  3. I agree it is odd that there has been a drastic change from inheriting money being more prestigious to todays day when working for it is more prestigious. The comparison with Bill Gates is perfect. They are both hard working people that stumbled upon a little bit of luck. Silas found it on his land and Gates found it in the day in age he lived in and his brilliant mind.

  4. I really enjoyed the comparison you made between the class distinctions based off of the tanned vs pale skin in the old days and the class distinctions made in Silas' day based off of the need to work for money. It is really interesting to see how society has changed over the years and how it has maintained some of the original prejudices. People who have money are still looked up to and those who don't still tend to be overlooked. I am glad that there are now opportunities available for anyone to pursue their dreams and reach that prestige if it is what they desire. It certainly makes life easier for those who were not lucky enough to be born into wealth.
    Amanda Renslow