Starkfield as Hell in "Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton

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Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton opens to a bleak New England winter in Starkfield. The novel’s protagonist, Ethan Frome, resides here. Ethan resided “in Starkfield for too many winters.” In fact, the author projects the image of a hell through her description of Starkfield. The city’s name finds its root in a word used to describe a barren or naked place. The author also compounds the image of a barren wasteland by having the story take place in winter, which in the New England region acts as a crippling force, equivalent to a substantial army besieging a weak defenseless town. In sharp contrast to this desolate area, lies Mattie. Wharton first introduces the reader to Mattie, when she wears a bright “cherry colored scarf.” (12) Wharton utilizes imagery to describe Mattie to the reader before she even opens her mouth to speak. First, the color scarlet sharply contrasts the depressing white landscape, showing that Mattie as the opposite of Starkfield. Mattie has only resided in Starkfield for one winter, which has not robbed Mattie of her youthful vitality. The second projected image l...

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