Ethan Frome, the main character in the book entitled Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, has many complex problems going on at the same time. His family has died and he has a wife that is continually sick, and the only form of happiness he has is from his wife's cousin Mattie. This, however, at times proves to be hard because of Ethan's wifes interference. Nothing seems to be going in Ethan's favor. One theme of the book is weakness of character; this is shown by Ethan’s marraige, his inability to stand up to his wife, and his involvement concerning the "accident."
The first way weakness of charcter is shown in the book is through the marriage of Ethan and his wife. He married her because she had tried to help his mother recover from an illness, and once his mother died he could not bear the thought of living in the house alone. His wife was seven years his senior and always seemed to have some kind of illness. It seemed all she ever did was complain, and he resented this because it stifled his growing soul. Since his wife was continuously ill, and her cousin needed a place to stay, they took her in to help around the house. Ethan took an immediate propensity to her cousin, Mattie, because she brought a bright light upon his dismal day. He seemed to have found someone that cared for him, was always happy and could share his youth, unlike his sickly wife who always nagged him. He longed to be with Mattie, however he had loyalty to his wife. He did not have the courage to stand up to society and resolve the error that he commited by marrying his first wife.
The second example of weakness of character was not being able to stand up to his wife. His wife claimed that a new doctor said that she was extremely sick, and needed more help around the house. She told him without any discussion that Mattie had to go. Ethan could not find the words to make her alter her decision. His wife also decided that Mattie had to leave the next day itself and Ethan could not do anything about it. It was stated in the book that his wife had the upper hand in the house by the line "Now she [his wife] had mastered him [Ethan] and he obeyed her.