Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome Essay

2921 words - 12 pages

Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

Edith Wharton has succeeded in creating a place, which by its very
name, is isolated and desolate - a "mute melancholy landscape", which
unrelentingly consumes those within, preventing them from ever
escaping its grasp. Furthermore, Wharton's novel delves into the human
psyche, to give a glimpse of manipulation and entrapment. The
prevailing mood is continually bleak and tragic, with only brief
interludes of hope and romance, which are quickly ruined. Indeed, the
main characters are often portrayed as victims; of their life, destiny
and of their harsh surroundings.

The structure of Wharton's novel helps to establish the mood and
atmosphere. The non-linear narrative gives the reader a glimpse of the
tragedy that is soon to follow. At the beginning of the book, Ethan
Frome is shown as a suffering "ruin of a man", struggling against his
disability, emphasising the tragic qualities of the novel. Moreover,
Wharton uses tragic foreshadowing to inform us that something will
inevitably and tragically cripple the main character. This knowledge
creates a pessimistic mood, constantly pre-empting the upcoming
catastrophe that will forever alter Ethan Frome's life. Additionally,
the attempted suicide, the "smash up", is mentioned three times in the
prologue, further indicating tragedy. The juxtaposition of Ethan Frome
in the past (when he was fit, healthy and dignified), and in the
future (when he was crippled, and only a diminished memory of his
former self), predicts the forthcoming tragedy, and illustrates the
affect it will have upon Ethan. It foresees that he will soon be
stripped of all his power and violently deprived of his dignity -
Ethan looks as he is "dead and in hell". It seems Ethan Frome's
destiny is to become "bleak and unapproachable". Indeed, the prologue
shows the future Frome in "distress" and "oppression", further
suggesting that something will ruin his life. All this impending
disaster and the suffering that will inevitably follow, is shown in
the prologue, establishes the tragic mood and bleak atmosphere. This
frame narrative is used as a means for tragic foreshadowing, as is the
narrator.

The anonymous narrator is merely a device to introduce the main
character and his plight. However, the actual point of view of the
narrator is much more important, as it helps to create the mood and
establish the emotions, specifically sympathy and compassion, felt
towards Ethan, and to some extent Mattie. The narrator is subjective,
and displays a certain amount of bias towards Ethan. As the narrator
is an outsider and not a villager, and therefore has not been consumed
by the bleak surroundings, he sheds a different light onto the
situation. We are told that the narrator is only "anchored at
Starkfield … for the best part of the Winter". If the...

Find Another Essay On Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

The Responsibility of Ethan Frome for His Own Tragedy in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

3698 words - 15 pages The Responsibility of Ethan Frome for His Own Tragedy in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome A: Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, published in 1911, was a departure from her other works that were primarily concerned with the privileged New York Society and its hypocrisy. Critics have agreed that Ethan Frome was probably one of the most autobiographical of Wharton's works because it talked about an illicit affair while Wharton herself

"Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton Essay

546 words - 2 pages The romantic tragedy, Ethan Frome was written by Edith Wharton. The novel takes place in the small town of Starkfield, Massachusetts in the early 1900s. Ethan Frome is the main character in the novel and is married to his wife Zeena. They live in an old farmhouse along with Mattie Silver, who came to live with them to be of assistance to Zeena around the house. Ethan is caught in a love triangle with his spouse Zeena and secret lover Mattie

"Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton

643 words - 3 pages Ethan Frome, the main character in the book entitled Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, has manycomplex problems going on at the same time. His family has died and he has a wife that is continually sick, and the only form of happiness he has is from his wife's cousin Mattie. This,however, at times proves to be hard because of Ethan's wifes interference. Nothing seems to be going in Ethan's favor. The main theme of the book is failure, and this is

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

1680 words - 7 pages The novel “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton, expressed that the influence of circumstances can affect the aspects of a person’s life, just as it did with the character Ethan Frome. For instance, Ethan inherited the family farm and sawmill while facing the adversity of maintaining agriculture but keep true to his family traditions. Secondly, Ethan will experience his parent’s misfortune, self-sacrifice, an unpleasant marriage and the emotions of

Essay on Wharton's Ethan Frome: Ethan Frome as Fairy Tale

766 words - 3 pages Ethan Frome as Fairy Tale   Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome is vividly real to its readers, its issues continually relevant to society, but through its structure and moral lessons, it is intended to be read as a 'fairy tale'. Elizabeth Ammons discusses this 'fairy tale' in her article "Ethan Frome as a Fairy Tale," explaining that the novel is a "vision" of the narrator's. As evidenced by the introductory chapter, the narrator truly has

Trapped in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

1002 words - 4 pages Many people oppose society due to the surroundings that they face and the obstacles that they encounter. Set in the bleak winter landscape of New England, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is the story of a poor, lonely man, his wife Zeena, and her cousin Mattie Silver. Ethan the protagonist in this novel, faces many challenges and fights to be with the one he really loves. Frome was trapped from the beginning ever since Mattie Silver came to live

Essay on Wharton's Ethan Frome: A Psychological Novel

1508 words - 6 pages Ethan Frome as A Psychological Novel        Many authors have tried to convey truths about human behavior and explain the human psyche, often unsuccessfully. Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome, is an example of a novel that succeeds in revealing truths. She fills her characters with nuances that reflect the subconscious and her setting is alive with reflected symbolism. She is able to interpret the characters actions in a way that can

Essay on Wharton's Ethan Frome: Absence of Light and Life

939 words - 4 pages . Caught up in a rush of passion, they try to commit suicide and fail. Ethan is crippled and Mattie is paralyzed. They can now never leave town for a life together. And Ethan is doomed to a life of silence with two complaining women. Edith Wharton's writing style in Ethan Frome is impeccable. On the surface, Ethan Frome is simply a good story. Mrs. Wharton however adds incredible depth by the careful use of description, and symbolism. And her use

Examples of Naturalism in Ethan Frome Characters, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

978 words - 4 pages “Naturalism is commonly understood as an extension or intensification of realism. The intensification involves the introduction of characters of a kind…” (Baym, 1999) A perfect example of Naturalist work is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Ethan, one of the main characters in the book, is a old, deformed man who is in love with his wife’s cousin. Zeena is Ethan’s wife who occasionally has psychological illnesses. Mattie is

Symbols used in "Ethan Frome" by Edith Warton

633 words - 3 pages Edith Warton's work, Ethan Frome, is an ironic book with naturalist ideas. Ethan Frome, the protagonist, has a secret love affair with Mattie, his wife's cousin. Mattie has come to assist the Frome family with their domestic affairs. Zeena, Ethan's hypochondriac wife, detects Ethan's love for Mattie. She decides to send Mattie away in exchange for a hired servant that will attend to Zeena's sickness. On the day of Mattie's department, Ethan

The Witch Wins in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

1352 words - 5 pages , Edith Wharton portrays a twisted fairy tale similar to the story of Snow White with the traditional characters, but without a happy ending to show that in a bleak and stark reality, the beautiful and enchanting maiden could become the witch. Ethan Frome contains three main characters that parallel those of traditional fairy tales. Firstly, Zeena represents the witch, or evil stepmother. Everything about her resembles a witch, from “her puckered

Similar Essays

Codependency In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

1182 words - 5 pages Codependency in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome      "Dependent personality disorder."(Morris)  To people who suffer from this disorder, making a decision is virtually impossible. It is only by getting assistance from others that they can make even the simplest of choices. When some of these people come together, they rely on each other to help them with decision-making.  Unfortunately, the codependency created by this situation

Poverty In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

689 words - 3 pages Poverty in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome Poverty is defined as deficiency, or inadequacy. It can be used to represent more than just the lack of money. Poverty is constant throughout the novel, Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton. Poverty is evident in almost every area of Ethan's life. First of all, obviously, Ethan lacked money. His farm squeezed out just enough money to keep him and his household going. On page 133, Ethan is thinking

Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome" A Review

1070 words - 5 pages In "Ethan Frome", Wharton uses imagery to depict the ways individual expression is repressed by social constraints. "Ethan Frome", the protagonist in the tragic novel, is a victim of the social expectations. The setting for the novel, Starkfield, is bleak and barren, like the "deadness of the community". Wharton criticises the traditional conventions, which prevent Ethan from escaping from a marriage in which he has no happiness, to pursue a new

Ethan Frome: Edith Wharton's Use Of Figurative Language

1710 words - 7 pages Ethan Frome, the tale of a man who has a bleak future, bound by his sickly wife, is an incredible story written by a doubly incredible author; Edith Wharton. Her novels such as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence were masterpieces for the generations who grew up with them. These novels still live on today as remarkable pieces of literature. Even more impressive is how a rich and upscale woman was able to relate to a poor farmer when she