The Awakening and Ethan Frome

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This year in English class we read many stirring novels, two of which being The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. On the surface, these books may look like they don’t have much in common due to their dissimilar plots. However, there are a few noticeable similarities between them; both protagonists in the novels, Edna Pontellier and Ethan Frome, are fighting a constant internal battle. They want things they can’t have, and the potential serenity they yearn for goes against the principled norms of the time periods and would taint their societal reputations forever. Edna Pontellier is an ordinary wife and mother, but craves for so much more. As a woman living in the late 1800s, she wants to be free to express herself however she wants, even if that includes pursuing her forbidden love, Robert. Likewise, Ethan Frome is a quiet man living in the early 1900s who feels beleaguered by Zeena, his sick and irritated wife. As the story progresses, he realizes he is falling in love with Mattie Silver, the youthful and energetic girl who moves in with the Fromes to help care for Zeena. The second noticeable similarity between the two novels is that both protagonists attempt suicide at the climax of the story. Whereas Edna succeeds in her attempt, Ethan does not. As a result of this, he is forced to live the rest of his life in misery with Zeena and the consequences of his impulsive actions. Despite the unalike outcomes of each book, The Awakening and Ethan Frome are equally poignant stories that show how many people of these time periods are conflicted between being who they want to be and being who society expects them to be. However, both stories show this in a different way; while Edna Pontellier reflects what is g... ... middle of paper ... ...nter 1987): 304-312. Rpt. in Twentieth- Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 138. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Apr. 2014. "The Progressive Era (1890 - 1920)." The Progressive Era (1890 - 1920). n.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014. Springer, Marlene. "Setting and Symbolism." Ethan Frome: A Nightmare of Need. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. 76-94. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 84. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. Stone, Carole. "The Female Artist in Kate Chopin's The Awakening: Birth and Creativity." Women's Studies 13 (1986): 23-32. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 Apr. 2014. Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. New York: Scribner, 1939. Print.

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