Essay on Themes of The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome

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The Underlying Themes of The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome Two of Edith Wharton’s greatest novels, The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome can be seen to have similarities in the situations the characters go through and themes that are used. Each of these novels has it’s own themes and traits that makes it great, but after examining each novel it is evident thatthere are underlying themes that link the two stories together. Perhaps the most obvious is the weakness that both Ethan Frome and Newland Archer seem to have in there lives. The feeling of being trapped, and wanting that sense of freedom is also an important part of both novels. Of course there are themes and symbolisms within each that contribute to the great differences between the two. In The Age of Innocence, mortality and immortality is one of the greatest aspects or themes; and in Ethan Frome the weakness of Ethan’s character can be seen as one of the main focus’. To understand the background on either of these novels, it is best to understand a little of Wharton’s biographical background (this helps to see why similar situations are portrayed in both novels). Wharton lived in New York city and was raised to be a "daughter of society", always putting forth her best manners and showing respect to the rituals of society. This attributed greatly to The Age of Innocence which has been described as "a masterful portrait of desire and betrayal set in New York City of her youth." Her marriage to Teddy Wharton is said to be where the basis of thought came from for the novel Ethan Frome. She discovered that her husband had been cheating on her and supporting a mistress living in Boston, and she soon met and fell in love with someone else too. In Ethan Frome the book is viewed by many people as a novel about an affair and the love that Ethan finds in another woman, not his wife. Ethan Frome takes place in the small New England village of Starkfield Massachusetts and the scenery and natural surroundings are great aspects of the book. It is just a boring cold farm town, and often enough the harsh winters cause the people there to become very ill. The eerie cold helped to create the solemn and tragic mood of this novel, and was a part of the symbolism.

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