Irony In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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Edith Wharton’s book Ethan Frome is concurrently a flashback and a re-creation of a man’s past an unidentified narrator wishes to unearth. The reader never knows the “truth”—that is, the story from a main character—but instead receives scraps through the filter of the nameless narrator. He concludes the events and pieces together a tale from the comments of other minor characters as well as snippets from his own imagination to form his version of the flashback to events twenty-five years ago. Ostensibly, though, the story of Ethan Frome is a heartrending and dramatic representation of irony, both as a literary technique and an authorial worldview, but is more notable for the ongoing thematic message of deafening silence in character development. Edith Wharton describes her…show more content…
. . half emerged from the soil, and scarcely more articulate.” Thus it is given that each of the three major characters is encased in his or her individual silences. Ethan Frome, a rather quiet man by nature, returns to a quiet town of Starkfield following the tragic death of his father. He becomes too busy working to make pleasantries with the villagers and his sick mother stops speaking; Ethan becomes confined to a "temporal silence” as a coping mechanism to environmental disturbances. He experiences a brief hiatus when Zeena the Nurse arrives to care for his dying mother; but after his mother's death and his successive marriage to Zeena, she falls silent just as silent as his mother. Communication between the couple is minimal, artificial, shallow. After Mattie's arrival, Zeena forces a smothering silence on her as well with her "fault-finding (that is) of the silent kind"(pg. 37). This truly expresses the nature of Ethan and the nature of this book because of its inability to
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