In the novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, Ethan’s wife Zeena plays an important role in the novel. Zeena changes Ethan through their marriage, and her illness. It is interesting when we find out that Zeena is actually Ethan’s cousin. It is questionable whether Zeena is sick or not. She often appears to be a hypochondriac. In the novel the narrator states that “Zeena, she’s always been the greatest hand at doctoring in the county” (5). If Zeena had the greatest hand at doctoring, she would be able to help take care of herself and at the same time help others.
In the beginning of the novel we learn how Ethan found Zeena.
“It was only when she drew toward her last illness, and his cousin Zenobia Pierce came over from the next valley to help him nurse her, that human speech was heard again in the house. After the mortal silence of his long imprisonment Zeena’s volubility was music in his ears. He felt that he might have “gone like his mother” if the sound of a new voice had not come to steady him” (29).
Zeena brought Ethan color to his life. She made him more sociable. “Zeena seemed to understand his case at a glance. She laughed at him for not knowing the simplest sick-bed duties and told him to “go right along out” and leave her to see to things” (29). Zeena was taking care of Ethan’s mother and he fell “in love” with her while she was taking care of his mother. It is said that “Her efficiency shamed and dazzled him. She seemed to posses by instinct all the household wisdom that his long apprenticeship had not instilled in him” (29). Ethan proposed to Zeena because he didn’t want to be alone, it is said in the novel that “He was seized with an unreasoning dread of being left alone on the farm, and before he knew what he was doing he had asked her to stay there with him” (29). It is unclear whether Zeena possessed a love for Ethan as Ethan claimed to of have for her. In the end of...