Ethan Frome Symbolism Essay

640 Words3 Pages
Zenobia Frome, wife of the titular character of Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome, is not a pleasant woman. In a passionless marriage, Zeena attempts to maintain control over her husband even when not present, while Ethan explores a budding relationship between himself and their hired girl, Zeena's cousin, Mattie Silver. Wharton explores the consequences of an unhealthy relationship lacking in love and passion though the symbolism of the Fromes’ cat and the red glass pickle dish.
“The cat, unbidden, jumped up between them into Zeena’s empty chair” (34). Although not directly a result of Zeena’s distrustful demeanor, the cat acts on her behalf while she is away seeing a doctor in the next town over. Seen most prominently in Ethan and Mattie’s dinner scene, the cat often seems to make attempts at breaking up the two lovers. The animal makes pointed efforts to keep Ethan and Mattie from developing anything more than a friendship, and acts like a nagging wife keeping her husband from getting to know any other women too well, as would be Zeena’s role if she were home at the time. Ethan and Mattie’s neglect towards the cat’s preventative actions causes the feline to smash the red glass pickle dish symbolic of Ethan and Zeena's love and marriage.
…show more content…
Neither Ethan nor Mattie, the ones actually enacting the transgression, were the ones to break the dish. It was the cat, by-proxy Zeena, who broke the dish; she, it, saw that her marriage to Ethan may as well be over. The broken pickle dish symbolizes both Ethan and Zeena’s broken marriage and their broken trust. Their relationship will never be the same again, and Zeena now has physical confirmation of the feeling she's had for years: Ethan has moved on from here. However, Zeena hasn't done much to keep him
Open Document