The Theme Of Isolation In Ethan Frome By Edith Wharton

analytical Essay
2266 words
2266 words

In the book “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton, Ethan, the main character in the book, experiences many episodes of isolation persuading him to escape from and cope with them with outlets of hope, only leading to a life of permanent isolation. The story depicts a classic ironic switch of roles and a triangle of unusual “love.” With many people coming and going, Ethan looks to rely on someone to relieve his isolation and communicate with, only setting him up for trouble. Early on, certain details and dialogues regarding Ethan and his stay in Starkfield suggests that his stay in Starkfield, in turn, isolates him. As Marlene Springer says in “Ethan Frome: A Nightmare of Need”, “Ethan is faced with the endless whiteness of New England winters”, which …show more content…

His isolation manifests itself throughout the book with either characters speaking about him, or through depictions of the author, Edith Wharton. One example where this unveils itself is when Harmon, who develops a lot of the town gossip, speculates on the cause of Ethan Frome 's ruined and prematurely aged appearance. He speaks about Ethan saying, “Guess he 's been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away” (Wharton 6). His remark expresses the theme of the landscape 's shaping of character and fate. This describes the theme of isolation as it says that Ethan has been in Starkfield too long, and is essentially isolated. Here, it becomes apparent that through his stay in Starkfield, an ironically stark place, he transforms into an isolated human being. Another way in which Ethan’s isolation becomes apparent occurs in the prologue, where Wharton describes Ethan in comparison to the setting of the book. Wharton exclaims he represents “a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface… in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access” (Wharton 14). The book takes place in the fictional place of Starkfield, …show more content…

He is physically isolated from the world and is also cut off from the possibility of any relationship. Due to his new situation, he looks for an outlet in order to relieve himself from this isolation. Luckily enough for him, Mattie comes around in order to help Zeena out due to her illness. Wharton writes, “...the coming to his house of a bit hopeful young life was like the lighting of a fire under a cold heart” (Wharton 33). As Smith recognizes in this comparison, he says that “His (Ethan) life of isolation changes, however, when Mattie Silver comes to stay with him and his wife” (Smith 96). Smith correctly analyzes Ethan’s situation, labeling Mattie as this outlet of hope that he can turn to in order to cope with his isolation. Wharton herself shows that Ethan truly did view Mattie as his outlet for hope, mainly due to his love for her, which Mattie shares equally for him. This love sprouts from many things including attractiveness, conversation, understanding, and listening, many of which he lacks for his whole life and where most of his isolation roots itself. Wharton writes, “She had an eye to see and an ear to hear: he could show her things and tell her things, and taste the bliss of feeling that all he imparted left long reverberations and echoes he could wake at will” (Wharton 28). This is a fancy way of saying that they Mattie not only listened to Ethan, but also

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how edith wharton's "ethan frome" depicts an ironic switch of roles and a triangle of unusual "love."
  • Analyzes how ethan's isolation manifests itself throughout the book with characters speaking about him or through depictions of , edith wharton.
  • Analyzes how wharton sees the comparison between the setting and ethan in regards to their depth, and how their internal beings cannot be accessed due to different reasons.
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