From Ethan’s point of view and adulterous mindset, Zeena is bound to be deemed irritating and a burden. The narrator of this story sides with Ethan, telling the story from Ethan’s perspective. The narrator explains,
All the long misery of his baffled past, of his youth of failure, hardship and vain effort, rose up in his soul in bitterness and seemed to take shape before him in the woman who at every turn had barred his way. She had taken everything else from him; and now she meant to take the one thing that made up for all the others. For a moment such a flame of hate rose in him that it ran down his arm and clenched his fist against her. He took a wild step forward and then stopped (99).
The narrator’s positive encounter with Frome in the introduction of the novel sways his perspective of Ethan and Zeena’s relationship. In reality, Zeena has taken nothing from Ethan - he feels burdened by her presence because of his desire to commit adultery with a younger woman. Zeena does not earn the respect that she deserves, even if her illness is an exaggeration. She feels that the only way she can receive attention from her husband is by professing her misery. The audience is able to sympathize with Zeena and feel sorry for he...
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...ragments of their hearts.
Ethan Frome is an unusual novel of its time, yet it is reflective of the social status of women. Written approximately nine years before the emergence of women in society, the oppression of women in society is apparent in this novel. Reading this novel nearly a century later, the audience sympathizes with the oppressed woman. The biased narration from a man in this time period allows the both a male and female audience to sympathize with Zeena due to the changing status of women in society. While historical context is a prominent figure in analyzing the characterization of Zeena, diction, point of view, and symbolism shape the overall tone of the novel. Undoubtedly, Zeena is a hypochondriac and perhaps quite dramatic, but Ethan’s oppressive and adulterous facade cause us to feel more sympathetically towards Zeena than we otherwise might.
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