A Broken Dish In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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Name English 3A Primary Teacher 15 February 2017 A Broken Dish Rather than admit defeat, most people put on a facade so others will never know what is really happening. Edith Wharton’s novel, Ethan Frome, follows the title character 's decision of choosing between his wife and Mattie, the girl he loves. Zeena, Ethan 's wife, leaves him and Mattie alone for a night. Mattie breaks Zeena 's rules by using her red pickle dish, which gets broken by the cat. This would not be so problematic if it were not for the relationship between Ethan and Zeena being so strained already. The broken dish, and the events before and after the incident, symbolize Ethan and Zeena’s marriage, which was a marriage of convenience. Zeena struggles to keep the facade…show more content…
The pickle dish represents Ethan and Zeena’s marriage because it is one of Zeena’s most prized possessions that they received for a wedding present. After the dish gets knocked onto the floor, Ethan tries to convince Mattie that it is not a big deal. Instead of feeling comforted, Mattie reminds him that “it was a wedding present-don’t you remember? It came all the way from Philadelphia...that’s why she wouldn’t ever use it” (Wharton 32). This shows that Ethan has no feelings for the dish and could not even remember where it came from. Zeena, conversely, treasured the glassware, because it reminded her of one of the best days of her life. The book also states that she had placed it on a shelf where no harm could come to it, which also proves how much she cared for the dish. Wharton then writes that “it seemed to him as if the shattered fragments of their evening lay there” (32). As the broken pieces lay out before him, Ethan was reminded that he could never be with Mattie. The glass shards also led to him wondering how his broken marriage transformed into such a…show more content…
If the reader follows the symbolic nature of the book, then the broken marriage is equal to the broken pickle dish. Also, Zeena’s authority over Ethan is personified by the cat’s destructive presence during Ethan and Mattie’s secret dinner. There are many parallels between the cat and Zeena, which is demonstrated by the cat’s spy like, distrusting behavior. We see the the cat is Zeena’s solider, when the cat “backs into the pickle dish, and it falls to the floor with a crash” (Wharton 32). Zeena was the one to ruin the marriage, but she still wants to keep Ethan . The cat then “jumped into Zeena’s chair, rolled itself into a ball, and lay watching them [Ethan and Mattie] with narrowed eyes” (Wharton 34). This relates to Zeena 's actions, because she also silently observes Mattie and Ethan from her chair. Zeena has a way of “letting things happen without seeming to remark on them, and then, weeks afterward, she slides in a casual phrase, revealing that she had taken her notes and drawn her inferences” (Wharton 15). Ultimately, the reader can infer that Zeena’s behavior was responsible for the distance between Ethan and Zeena,which created the tension in their

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