Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton Essay

Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton Essay

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Down in Starkfield, Massachusetts dwells “the ruin of a man” (Wharton 3). Starkfield slowly displays itself as a sleepy town of monotony and woe with “perpetual pale skies” (Wharton 7). Stifled in a blanket of snow for more than half the year, it claims its inhabitants one by one as they slowly succumb to its hypnotic powers. One in particular suffers the most of all, Ethan Frome. His future once gleamed bright with the prospect of escaping Starkfield through the university, which he attended. He then leads a difficult life after the death of his father and leaving him with the responsibility of caring for his mother. After searching for help on the farm, he sends for Zenobia, a cousin, to take care of his mother. Zeena, now the light and sound of the farm, becomes Ethan's wife after the death of his mother. He often believes his marraige“...would not have happened if his mother had died in spring instead of winter...” (Wharton 62). They intended to move but “within a year of their marriage she developed the 'sickliness'...”(Wharton 63). She becomes a bed-ridden hag, draining Ethan's inheritance for her medicines and healings. It becomes apparent “[h]urting young people and depriving them of their hope and joy...” is Zeena's new hobby (Ammons 2). As he once hired Zeena for his mother, he now hires Mattie Silver, a cousin of Zeena's. Mattie “...was more than the bright serviceable creature he had thought her” (Wharton 29). Mattie is vivacious and smart as well as beautiful, the light of a dark, dank hole called Starkfield. She brings life back to the bleak existence Ethan lived in for seven years during his marriage to Zeena. He often longs for the love of Mattie and makes the supposition she too loves him back. The only woman ...

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...take away his and her pain. Their life together, however, has just begun. Ethan and Mattie survive the crash; however, Ethan gets the worst part of the bargain. He must deal with “Mattie Silver [becoming] Zeena's double rather than Ethan's compliment” (Ammons 2). Mattie becomes just like Zeena, whining and complaining after becoming an invalid after the crash. Ethan, now, must care for them both and “the witch triumphs” taking Ethan's old life into a living nightmare foreshadowed by the ironic symbolism throughout the novella (Ammons 2).

Works Cited
Ammons, Elizabeth. "Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome and the Questions of Meaning." Studies in American Fiction 7.2 (1979): 127-40. Print.
Bernard, Kenneth. "Imagery and Symbolism in Ethan Frome." College English 23.1 (1961): 178- 84. Print.
Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Signet Classic, 2000. Print.

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