Ethan Frome Essay

984 words - 4 pages

“Magic Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” the Evil Queen inquiries (1). In the novella Ethan Frome, Mattie Silver (Snow White) surpasses the beauty of every living organism in Starkfield. Zenobia Frome correlates herself with the Evil Queen. Furthermore, Zeena, a hypochondriac in the eyes of Ethan Frome, is used as a foil for Mattie Silver. In the dark and gloomy tale of Ethan Frome, the story emerges as an inverted fairytale. The “fairy maiden” anthropomorphizes into a greater evil than the Evil Queen, herself. Snow White was known for her pale skin, red lips, and her beautiful voice. Alike Snow White, Edith Wharton sedulously attaches red and light with Mattie Silver, ...view middle of the document...

She constantly finds fault with Mattie” (Ammons 2). “‘You’re a bad girl, Mattie Silver, and I always known it…’” Zeena broaches after she found out that Mattie used her prized pickle-dish merely to make the “super-table pretty” (Wharton 111). Nevertheless, Wharton’s tarnished fairytale is inverted, instead of the beloved Mattie Silver winning; Zenobia Frome finishes first and wins. Further, “in Wharton’s modern fairy story, witches not only win, they multiply” as surely because of Mattie’s doomed fate, she was to be another witch (Lilburn 2). Zeena displays everything Ethan Frome despises. Unlike her competitor, Zeena symbolizes death and malice. The reader associates the cat with Zeena, even when Zeena is not at the Frome home, her presence will always lurk there. Similar to every Evil Queen or witch, Zeena finds a way to ruin things, and Wharton lets Zeena win. The cat (Zeena) breaks the pickle-dish (Zeena and Ethan’s marriage) not Mattie. Wharton’s twist on everything that is done in the book makes Mattie appear as the one doing the damaging, but truly, it’s Zeena playing her magic.
Throughout the novella, Mattie Silver renders the perfect simile to a real-life princess. Belletristic scholar Kenneth Bernard states, “without Mattie's ‘light’ [Ethan Frome] is left with the ugly reality of his wife”, Zeena Frome, a hypochondriac witch. Unquestionably, Mattie Silver depicts the beauty of everything in Ethan Frome’s life. Wharton’s juxtaposes the physical appearance of Zeena Frome with Mattie Silver. The severity of the juxtaposition makes Zeena appear as a foil. Edith Wharton illustrates Silver into a “fairy maiden, a prince of nature in Ethan’s eyes” (Ammons 2). Ethan adores Mattie and her little quirks like having “a way of throwing her head back when she was amused” or the way she had “a trick of sinking her lids slowly when anything charmed or moved her” (Wharton 31). Nevertheless, Mattie was...

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