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 wrote Ethan Frome. Only an author with skill and talent can write a novel in which the characters and settings are as foreign to her as a hamburger to a Japanese sailor. This is what sets Edith Wharton apart from other novelists. Edith Wharton used many of her writing styles in this book, and when applied properly, makes for an outstanding story.One writing aspect that Edith Wharton used to convey this story to us was her use of symbolism. One symbol used in this book was the red ribbon that Mattie adorned. In such a white and cold environment, such as the winters in Starksfield, red stands out and seems to be a lone beacon in a sea of oblivion. Just as the red ribbon is what stands out in the white winters, Mattie is the guiding light in Ethan's desolate world. Where Zeena blends in with Ethan's dull environment, Mattie is beaming with light, opening the door to new possibilities and a more favorable life. Where Zeena seems old and ill, Mattie appears young, and able. These differences between the two women in the story only perpetuate Ethan's mentality that the grass is greener on the other side. The color red serves duel purposes. Not only was it the color that stood out, but red is also the color which is closely associated with the devil and sin. It is fitting for Mattie to be coupled with the color red, seeing she is Ethan's mistress, an obvious sin.Ethan feels as if he is living a nightmare, and simply wants to wake up to find Mattie by his side. Even when the house is only occupied by Ethan and Mattie, Zeena is still able to keep her presence ever clear. Edith Wharton used symbolism to illustrate the invisible presence of Zeena. She used the cat as a symbol to demonstrate the aura of Zeena. As the cat knocked over the pickle jar, it served as a force that kept Ethan and Mattie apart. Previously, this force was Zeena, but now the cat had served her purpose. Later, when the cat sat on Zeena's rocking chair, it became clear that yet again the cat was being used as a symbol to convey Zeena's invisible presence. The breaking of the dish had a second meaning as well. It symbolized the crumbling of the Frome's marriage. This can easily be compared to Edith Wharton's own life. In her forties she had an affair with a journalist by the name of Morton Fullerton. At the pinnacle of this affair, Edith's husband Teddy admitted to lavishly spending her fortune and had kept a mistress in a Boston home. Undeniably, there is a link between Edith Wharton's own marital problems and the marital problems faced by the...

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