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Ethan Frome Essay

829 words - 4 pages

“Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen” (“Brainy Quotes” 1). In Edith Wharton’s framed novel, Ethan Frome, the main protagonist encounters “lost opportunity, failed romance, and disappointed dreams” with a regretful ending (Lilburn 1). Ethan Frome lives in the isolated fictional town of Starkfield, Massachusetts with his irritable spouse, Zenobia Frome. Ever since marriage, Zenobia, also referred to as Zeena, revolves around her illness. Furthermore, she is prone to silence, rage, and querulously shouting. Ethan has dreams of leaving Starkfield and selling his plantation, however he views caring for his wife as a duty and main priority. ...view middle of the document...

Knowing that they will never be able to be together, Mattie suggests that they sled “right into the big elm” so that they “never have to leave each other anymore” (Wharton 143). The suicide attempt failed, however, they are severely injured. In Edith Wharton’s novel, Ethan Frome’s reclusive personality and distant demeanor do not result from his personal choices, but from the melancholy environment of Starkfield, Massachusetts.
When the unknown narrator first introduces Ethan, the narrator describes Ethan as a “ruin of a man” (Wharton 7). Growing up, Ethan was very shy, reserved, and had dreams of pursuing a high education in the sciences. However, the death of his father caused Ethan to return to his family farm in rural New England where he carried “the burden of farm and mill” (Wharton 61). His mother was very talkative, but after her “’trouble’ the sound of her voice was seldom heard” (Wharton 61). Unfortunately, she became very ill, and needed extra care. Ethan’s cousin, Zenobia Pierce, came to the family farm to help nurse her. After his mother died, he married Zeena out of loneliness. As time passed, their loveless marriage lagged on, and Zeena became deathly ill. From then on, the perhaps bias narrator describes Zeena through a negative light. For example, her physical appearance consists of vulgar false teeth, puckered lips, and grayish tinged skin. She constantly nags in her obnoxious voice about her illness. Ethan lives a miserable life trying to...

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