What Is The Cause Of Change In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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From great risk, some fortunate few are able to reap the benefits. The title character of Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome” often toys with this notion but reaches an inability to act. With nothing risked there is nothing gained, effectively preventing his life from moving forward or backwards. Furthermore, risk does not always yield change, as sometimes the change is the risk, a deviation from the normality of one’s life. Ethan’s inability to take risks keeps his life stagnant, immune to change like a decomposed corps in a grave. One of the first risks Ethan failed to take was instigating physical contact with Mattie. Stranded on the back porch, Ethan contemplates taking action, but is unsure what to say or do, only later reflecting on “why had he not kissed her” while they had momentary solitude (Wharton 37). Unsure of her feelings towards him, the precarious action of bestowing her with a kiss would have offered insight to whether or not she reciprocated his emotions. From previous events it is shown that Mattie very well may not harbor emotions towards Ethan as she has been shown to make flirtatious advances towards Denis Eady, which Ethan is “largely oblivious to”…show more content…
Doomed to remain in an ever-stagnant state of being like that of the bones of his past ancestors deep in the frozen ground of cemetery that houses them. As his own antagonist, he forces himself to be frozen in his death while still breathing by never taking a risk to change his fate of ending up being buried beside his wife in Starkfield while he longed for another. Whether progressive or detrimental, Ethan time and time again refuses to take his life into his own hands and make decisions to change it. In the end, Ethan truly is a dead man walking, accepting his life as it was and simply waiting it out until it’s
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