Character Archetypes In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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In order for a piece of literature to live on throughout time, there has to be an element that makes it stick with you. There has to be something that makes you think about the book days after you have read it. Edith Wharton uses character archetypes in her novel Ethan Frome to do this. The use of common types of characters makes you relate the piece of literature to others you have read before, or even relate them to yourself. Wharton purposely does this with Ethan, Mattie, and Zeena for that reason. Writers all through the ages, from Sophocles to Shakespeare, knew how to make readers love a tragic hero. They give us a relatable hero and take away everything that they love. A common tragic hero will often have amazingly unique qualities and talents as well as a tragic flaw. How does Ethan fit this mold? We know that he’s very physically strong and also intelligent, but his concern for others is the most obvious above the rest of his qualities. Ethan cared for both of his parents right up until their deaths’, even postponing his education. Throughout his affair with Mattie he is constantly thinking of Zeena and how it would affect her. Even when Mattie and Ethan are about to sled into the tree, Ethan is thinking of his horse being hungry when he says “he’s wondering why he doesn’t get his supper…” (Wharton 71). His selflessness and the way he worries about others is his tragic flaw. He dreams and desires of school and a new society, but believes that moving would cause

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