Character Analysis Of The Tragic Hero In Ethan Frome By Edith Wharton

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The universally-admired quality of a man, his kindness, is also his demise. In the novella Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, the reader experiences the life of a once exuberant and benevolent man, Ethan Frome, as he allows his caring nature to go beyond the needs of himself, and as he exposes the tragic hero properties he possesses. Ethan, from an early age, is a curious boy peaking with the signs of a tragic hero, yearning to escape the simple farm he is born into. Despite all odds, Ethan manages to go to college and attempt to make a name for himself, but Ethan's success is short-lived when his father becomes suddenly ill, and Ethan decides to give up everything, including his only chance at a better life, to care for his father, and eventually …show more content…

Ethan initially illustrates his kind disposition with his parents, whom he leaves school for, and his only hope at a better life, in order to help his mother on the farm after his father dies. After giving up such an important part of his eduction, Ethan then takes on the task of caring for his mother, and then eventually his sickly wife, all the while trying to make a living on a barren farm. Each person in town understands and respects all of the sacrifices Ethan makes in his life, and one of the townspeople, Harmon Gow, remarks on Ethan's life saying, "'Somebody had to stay and care for the folks. There warn't ever anybody but Ethan. Fust his father--then his mother--then his wife'" (Wharton 7). Ethan never realizes, with all of these instances, that he has a choice on how he can live; the only option he sees is helping others, "'it is always Ethan [that does] the caring'", as Harmon stated (Wharton 7). Ethan illustrates his kind-hearted nature further when he cannot bring himself to leave his wife, for she would have nothing to live on and no one to care for her. Ethan, in a moment of complete confusion and stress, reminds himself that "he is a poor man, the husband of a sickly woman, whom his desertion would leave alone and destitute" (135). At this time, Ethan is an instant away from leaving Starkfield forever …show more content…

The reader first sees this when Ethan agrees to go back home to care for both his mother and his father, "put[ting] a premature end to [his] studies", and deserting his only chance at a job outside of his family farm (Wharton 26). Ethan, rather than make a better life for himself and his future family, decides to put his troubles aside, and give up his life for the intentions of others. At many parts of the novella, such as when Ethan tells a friend that he "'used to'" be interested in science, the reader understands that Ethan cannot help but regret his previous decisions (Wharton 16). Continuing, another example of Ethan's blind resolutions is when he marries Zeena, despite knowing it is not what he wants; it seems that he marries her as a favor, for she helped his mother when his mother needed it most. Ethan once again acknowledges that he made this decision "before he knew what he was doing", ultimately proving to the reader that he gradually begins to understand his own flaw, overwhelming kindness (Wharton 66). Ethan's desire to assist others rather than care for his own needs leads to further consequences, including his inability to experience true happiness with Mattie Silver and from living the life he imagined. Ultimately, Ethan's tragic flaw causes his downfall to occur because he follows Mattie's wishes over his own. Throughout his life,

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