The Darkest Of Snow In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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In Ethan Frome, the people of Starkfield endure the darkest and coldest of winters. Ethan Frome himself has been “in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away” (12). Everything is “snowed under”(16) and the “winter night itself [descends] layer by layer” (19). The weight of the snow bends the trees and covers the town in white -- compared the darkness that lies below. Snow falls for the long, imprisoning months of winter. In Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton utilizes snow as a facade to not only cover darkness but also reveal the reality underneath. Zeena and Ethan’s loveless marriage hides within their home, just as white, soft snow piles and weighs down on the ground. Continually, Wharton describes Zeena as displeasing to the…show more content…
Mattie, commonly seen with a red scarf (23) on or flushed, red cheeks (54), emanates heat and has a fire burning so that “its [is] warm and bright in the kitchen” (43). Mattie symbolizes Summer; as a matter of fact, Ethan’s brightest memory of her is from a picnic in the woods on a hot, summer day. For so long, Ethan is deprived of what he needs: warmth. In the long, freezing winters of Starkfield, Ethan -- or any human -- needs a fire to keep warm. Winter can be endured, yet without heat and shelter, there are consequences. Finally, with a source of heat in his life, Ethan adores Mattie and fights to control her. He is in desperate need of this constant source; therefore, he does whatever he can to keep it. Meanwhile, Mattie is slowly melting the crystal, white snow and revealing a secret hidden beneath -- a loveless, broken marriage. “The note of authority in [Ethan’s] voice seemed to subdue [Mattie]” (88), yet he did not realize that the seasons cannot be controlled. Mattie, distraught over the thought of leaving Ethan, “seemed the embodied instrument of fate” (91), as she quickly convinced him to sled down into the elm tree. Wharton specifically characterizes Mattie as summer to display what happens when warmness comes in contact with snow: mud. Mattie takes the reins of the sled and drives the two down the hill. Ethan longed to possess Mattie, yet all seasons must come to an
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