A Psychological Criticism In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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In the novel Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton creates an interesting plot revolving around two star-crossed lovers. Unfortunately, there is only one important thing that gets in the way of these lovers, a wife who’s a hypochondriac. Zeena, the wife, finds herself in a particular situation, a situation where she needs to figure out how to get rid of Mattie. She tries everything to get rid of her, especially her illness, using it as an excuse to get what she wants, oppressing Ethan’s desires and needs. Despite her malicious actions, she creates a justifiable reasoning of her intent. In Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton creates a psychological response in regards to Zeena. Rather than being depicted as the villain of the novel, Zeena is merely the victim of…show more content…
The way that he describes her is in a very unfeminine and dark way, just like the weather and the snow in Starkfield. Her personality is very shallow and cold. Just like the weather, she is viewed in a negative aspect. Ethan yearns to get out of the grayish, bleak snow, but Zeena is the only one that holds him back. Ethan often thinks what “would not have happened if his mother had died in spring instead of winter” (Wharton 38). If his mother had died during spring, then he wouldn’t have married Zeena because the winter’s there are so desolate and hopeless. After Ethan’s mother died, Zeena immediately became ‘sick,’ making Ethan stay and to take care of the farm. The winter shaped both Zeena and Ethan’s actions, especially during the cold climate. Whenever Ethan is around her, “looking at her shut face, he feel[s] the chill of such forebodings” (Wharton 39). Zeena is at her worst when it’s cold and brittle; her mood and actions change along with the snow. Just like the other characters in the novel, the snow and cold is the reasoning behind her personality. Psychologically, many characters go through a depression-like state when the weather is as bleak and grey like the weather in Starkfield. A lot of people in the Starkfield community are “rich in pathological instances” (Wharton 38). They are obsessed with every type of illness, but unfortunately Zeena has always…show more content…
She becomes suspicious, noticing every little detail that Ethan does. Panicking, she figures out a way to save both of their relationship, by faking her illness to the next level and firing Mattie in order to get another maid. When Zeena developed her ‘sickliness,’ she “fell silent” (Wharton 39), because Ethan “never listened” (Wharton 39). Up to the point until Mattie came to live with them, she started to say more than she has ever said. She started to break her silence slowly because of her jealousy. “She grumble[s] increasingly over the house-work” (Wharton 18) and remarks that he’s “always late, [because he] shave[s] every morning” (Wharton 19). Zeena also “found oblique ways of attracting attention to [Mattie’s] inefficiency” (Wharton 18). Zeena, at this point of time in the novel, notices the strong connection that Ethan and Mattie have developed for each other. After Zeena speculates those things and tells Ethan, her “thrusts frightened him” (Wharton 19). He had “assumed that [Zeena] would not notice any change[s] in his appearance” (Wharton 20). Ethan is blind to Zeena’s perception. He seems to think the things that he has done with Mattie does not betray or deceive Zeena. He is ignorant of what is going around him. Despite Zeena’s ‘thrusts’ he doesn’t think anything of it. He continues his secretive relationship with Mattie, while Zeena notices his changes
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