In a final scene from Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton draws a timeline leading up to the main character, Ethan Frome, and his love interest, Mattie Silver deciding to take their lives rather than letting the rules implied by the society of Starkfield force them to part, their decision in turn contributing to the theme that confinement from pressure from society can drive citizens to their torment. Contributing to the novel as a whole, this scene also highlights Ethan’s built up misery by displaying his willingness to die in order to escape his unwanted marriage to his ailing wife, Zeena. To begin with, as a resident in Starkfield, a town whose residents, obviously unadjusted divorce, consider seven year of marriage as “not so long”, Ethan feels
Ethan loses everything he sought. He lost his Mattie but also managed to not lose her at the same time. Literally he lost Mattie as her original personality was lost by the accident. In another sense he managed to keep her from leaving their household which was the whole ignition to Ethan’s plan. In the end, Ethan sacrifices everything to abandon his old life of a boring, sickly Zeena to end up being with a boring, sickly Mattie Silver. The infinite limbo and the consequence of trying to stay with both ends of the stick.
When realizing that they can't pretend they don't have feelings for each other any longer they know the have to escape Zeena. After ruling out divorce and leaving to go west with Mattie, they ultimately decide that they will only truly be free of Zeena in death. "The inexorable facts closed in on him like prison wardens hand-cuffing a conflict. There was no way out -none. He was a prisoner for life, and now his one ray of light was to be extinguished." (69) However, their suicide attempt failed to leave Ethan crippled and disfigured and Mattie paralyzed. Mattie's injuries prevented her from going anywhere making her just as bad as Zeena. Like Zeena, she never left the house and was constantly needing help. She lost everything that made her who she was. She went from a lively young woman who was waiting for an adventure, to a crippled woman who was dependent on others to take care of her. The attempt that should have set him free of Zeena, transforms Mattie into a mirror image of the very thing he tried to escape. Ethan Frome's life becomes one long continuation of Ironic events that he can't escape from
Ethan Frome is a classic novel, written in 1911 by author Edith Wharton. She based the accident that occurred in her novel on the historical “Fatal Coasting Accident.” In Ethan Frome, the simplicity of the accident is similar to that of the “Fatal Coasting Accident”, but the details overall are very different. Edith knew one of the victims personally, which made her change some aspects out of respect, but she also changed them to make the story her own. Ethan Frome is different from “Fatal Coasting Accident” because Edith changed the storyline and technicalities, the reasons behind the accident, and the aftermath of the accident, which dramatized her novel and made it fictional.
A long time resident of Starkfield, the protagonist Ethan Frome shows he is considerate by caring for and helping others. He first shows this trait when he gives up his desire to live in a city to support his ill mother. Though he has a strong wish to leave Starkfield, he respects his duty and cares for his mother. Ethan also shows this attribute to Zeena, by looking after her and contributing to her medicine while she also falls ill. Zeena is again thought of by Ethan when the pickle dish breaks. Ethan, who knows how much the dish means to her, attempts to glue it back together to please her, unsuccessfully.
Ethan began showing his affection towards Maddie subtly, beginning by shaving every day, then he slowly started by enjoying their walks together, it then got to the point where he eventually convinced himself to ask to go sledding with Maddie “Would you like to come in and coast with them some night” (Wharton 28). This shows the building relationship between them even when they all still live in the house creating tension. Finally towards the end of the book Ethan wants to buy something for Maddie in Dennis eadys store, even when she refuses he continues to make a scene in front of other people in the store. another bad decision of Ethan was letting his passivity get in his way of happiness not sticking up to Zeena, then not planning a way out of his marriage. With Ethan being a coward he accepted what Zeena said without her even needing to ask this is for example when Zeena says she hired a new house maid to take care of her Ethan did not directly stand up for Maddie or to Zeena he only said that they didn’t have the money to pay her. Also Ethan never made a plan where him and Maddie could be together in the end. If Ethan would of just stood up to for himself all of this could have been avoided, he could have been with Maddie from the beginning and made his life much
This common struggle is portrayed particularly in Ethan Fromes desire to leave his miserable marriage to Zeena in order to run away with his passionate affair with Mattie. Zeena recognizes Ethan's interest in Mattie, ordering that Mattie leave immediately, this causes Ethan to consider running off. While writing a letter to Zeena of his departure, he quickly realize that "[hes] been in a dream, and this is the only evening that [he and Mattie] will ever have together"(56) ultimately because running away would be a hopeless endeavor. Although, Ethan is unhappy, noticeable by his silence that "does not reflect emptiness, but, instead, mirrors veery present but muted morals"(Wendt 158), he chooses that his moral obligation to Zeena is more important. Yet "the facts of poverty and his marital obligation act like prison guards"(Carrol) causing eternal imprisonement in the soul of Ethan. In Whartons works "many of her characters strive for a balanced love and a balanced life"(Farwell 150), which Wharton draws attention to the fact that the goal of both a balanced love and life is essentially unattainable. No matter what people choose of passion and morality the cons will always outweigh the pros, leaving one unhappy no matter what one
The novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is about a tragic hero, Ethan who is not in love with his wife, but another person named Mattie. An important symbol in this novel is a pickle dish. This dish symbolizes Ethan’s relationship with his wife. The pickle dish first appears in chapter 4 of the novel. As Ethan and Mattie are eating, the cat interferes by causing the dish to fall. The plate breaks into multiple pieces. The dish mainly represents the broken relationship of Ethan and his wife, Zeena, after Mattie arrives. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton uses a pickle dish to symbolize Ethan and Zeena’s relationship in the past, and future.
In his essay about self-reliance, Emerson writes, “Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day.” (Pg. 5) In this quotation, Emerson clarifies a misconception that he believes is generally accepted among people. He explains that a person’s contradicting her/his previous decision is not a negative action. It is actually healthy for a person to have enough confidence to change her/his mind. This quality of a self-reliant individual is exemplified by Ethan in the novel Ethan Frome. As Ethan leaves his mother’s funeral, Wharton writes, “...when he saw her [Zeena] preparing to go away, he was seized with an unreasoning dread of being left alone on the farm; and before he knew what he was doing he had asked her to stay there with him. He had often thought since that it would not have happened if his mother had died in spring instead of winter…” (Pg. 29) In this quotation, Wharton highlights the fact that Ethan is unhappy with his original decision to marry Zeena. When Ethan asks Zeena to marry him, his desire for her is out of loneliness due to his mother’s death. Later on in the novel, however, Ethan realizes that he does not love Zeena and that he wants to begin a relationship with Mattie. Ethan has the choice to discard his true feelings, stay married to Zeena, and forget about Mattie. Despite this opportunity to avoid divorce and hardships, Ethan agrees to commit suicide together with Mattie in order for them to live happily in their afterlife together. Ethan is confident and knows what he wants out of his relationships, which helps him complete the second component of self-reliance according
Ethan’s farmhouse has always been home to loneliness. An example of this is the relationship Ethan had with his mother. Ever since she got sick, she stopped talking with Ethan, and Ethan began to feel lonely. “His mother had been a talker in her day, but after her "trouble" the sound of her voice was seldom heard, though she had not lost the power of speech.” (Chapter IV) Ethan’s heartache is the only reason he ever fell in love with and married Zeena. This same process repeated with Zeena. When she got sick, he began to feel lonely and fell in love with Mattie. This also would not have happened if Zeena didn’t get sick and stop talking with Ethan.
He abruptly chose not to go back to school after his father died, which was one of his biggest mistakes. He stayed in Starkfield even though he had the opportunity to go back to school and study his main interest, science. Because of this, he spent most of his days cooped up in his house. “But one phrase stuck in my memory…Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters.”(Wharton 3). Because of his loneliness, he asked Zeena to marry him without thinking it through. He had no feelings for her and desperately hoped it would make him feel better. While being married to Zeena, his unhappiness peaked and caused him to fall in love with another girl who was the Fromes’ maid, Mattie Silver. Romance was in the air and most definitely not between Zeena and Ethan. Ethan flirted with Mattie and would try his hardest to impress her, for example, he began shaving his face everyday which he never used to do for Zeena. These inappropriate actions caused chaos within the household. Ethan began to lust over Mattie, wanting to spend as much
Although some people who read the novella feel bad for Ethan Frome because he turned out unsuccessful, nobody should. The reason Ethan turned out unhappy, like the way he did, was all his fault by his own choices. Since the beginning he made the understandably not-so-great choice of leaving college, every single decision after that was all his fault. Ethan Frome's tragedy was completely caused by his own
Ethan chooses his duty to Zeena over his dream with mattie he would receive when proposed with the option of moving to the West, he decides against it because of what he owes to Zeena. He doesn 't knows if she would not be able to support herself and that clouded future is why he doesn 't agreed to leave. Again, Ethan chooses between duty to Zeena and seeking his personal dream when he and Mattie were going to take their lives so they would not have to live without each other. Throughout his time with Zeena, he was forced to choose between duty to his family and his dreams. He could have left and continued his dream of being an engineer but instead he married her do to a sense of payment for what she had done for his mother. He cast away his dream because he did not know whether he would have an opportunity like this
He and Mattie are sledding down the large hill near his home when Mattie tells him to steer “Right into the elm tree … So ‘t we’d never have to leave each other any more” (Wharton 71). This was one of the few opportunities that Ethan procures to escape his dismal life at home, yet he messes it up again after thoughts of Zeena poured into his mind, causing him to steer away from his target. This is practically a representation of Ethan’s entire life. He has many hopes and dreams of escaping his disheartened life in pursuit of a superior one, but right as he is about to act, something always seems to impede his judgement, causing him to be incapable of enacting his own personal free will.
Ethan’s quest for happiness started when he met Mattie, but he soon ran into a roadblock