scarlet letter, ethan frome, lesson before dying

analytical Essay
1039 words
1039 words

Dignity and Respect
Many people try to escape the prison that suppresses them, but fail to because of their moral obligations to themselves and others. Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, Ernest J. Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, portray the struggles one acquires through their own conduct. Ethan in Ethan Frome, Grant in A Lesson Before Dying and Hester in Scarlet Letter each try to elude their life dilemma’s, but are hindered due to their obligations. Ethan is obligated to his wife though he loves Mattie, while Grant is obligated to his society, but wants to leave. Hester accepts her punishment but wants to be within society though they shunned her. Wharton, Gaines and Hawthorne all use various language devices to accentuate the gain of dignity and respect through moral struggle.
In Ethan Frome, Wharton uses symbols and archetypes to create Ethan’s anguish to his moral obligation to his wife Zeena which keeps him from his true love, Mattie. His moral prison is established with the headstone of another Ethan Frome and his wife that bores that they “dwelled together in peace for fifty years,” which interests Ethan (Frome 66). Later on, his own neighbors “don’t see there’s much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard” (Frome 140). The symbol of “the Fromes down in the graveyard” establishes Ethan’s similarities to the dead illustrating his moral obligation to Zeena for eternity (Frome 140). When Ethan feels Zeena’s presence, coincidently Zeena’s grey cat “[elongates] its body in the direction of the milk-jug, which stood between Ethan and Mattie” (Frome 69).The cat then tries an unobserved retreat and “[backs] into the red pickle-dish, which [falls] on the floor with a crash” (Frome 69). The color archetypes of ‘red’ establish Ethan and Mattie’s love while the ‘grey’ cat establishes Zeena who breaks their love, the dish. Ethan is always besieged by Zeena even when lacking her presence. He wants to stay with Mattie yet his obligation to his wife thwarts him from her. When Ethan and Mattie finally reach the point by his mill “they descended [and] the darkness descended with them, dropping down like a black veil” (Frome 125). The “darkness” symbolizes Ethan’s obligation and his moral duty to his wife (Frome 125).He cannot leave her though he scorns her because it is his morally obliged to reside by her side.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how edith wharton's ethan frome, ernest j. gaines' a lesson before dying and nathaniel hawthorne’s scarlet letter portray the struggles one acquires through their own conduct.
  • Analyzes how wharton uses symbols and archetypes to create ethan's anguish to his moral obligation to zeena which keeps him from his true love, mattie.
  • Analyzes how gaines uses symbols and repetition to illustrate that to escape the moral prison, is to fight back and win the battle.
  • Analyzes how hawthorne uses repetition and metaphors to establish that hester struggles to accept her consequences which she believes are just and return to a society where no one trusts her.
  • Analyzes how the three novels deal with the inner conflict of each character of bringing the moral and immoral solution to their problems.
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