The Pickle Dish Symbolism In Ethan Frome By Edith Wharton

1006 Words5 Pages
Melissa Palacios
English 3A
Feb. 21 2017
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 Ethan Frome the pickle dish first appears in chapter 4 but is mentioned
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Before Mattie used the dish, it was in the china closet never being used. This could symbolize Ethan and Zeena’s relationship before Mattie. It wasn’t really love that got them married. They never showed their love for each other in the story. The dish symbolizes how their relationship was never really ‘used.’ In chapter 4, when the dish is being used, it breaks. The dish does not break by itself. In the story, the cat knocked it over. The cat could be a symbol for Mattie. “The cat, unnoticed, had crept up on muffled paws from Zeena's seat to the table…The cat… tried to effect an unnoticed retreat, and in doing so backed into the pickle-dish, which fell to the floor with a crash” (Wharton, chap 4). When Mattie moves in and her relationship with Ethan grows, she begins to break Zeena and Ethan’s marriage. Mattie moving in could be represented by the cat getting on the table. When the cat knocks over the dish, it breaks. This symbolizes that when Mattie got too close, Ethan’s marriage broke apart. Right after the dish breaks, Ethan said that Zeena would have to blame it on the cat. In chapter 7, Ethan blames the cat which caused Zeena to “turn her eyes to Mattie” (Wharton, chap 7). This could also mean that Zeena blames Mattie for breaking the dish and relationship. In chapter 6, Ethan gets the glue to fix the dish. Symbolically it could mean that he found a plan or a way to fix his relationship. However, this ‘glue’ is never applied to the dish. This could mean that he never applied the plan. In chapter 7, Zeena’s reaction to the plate being broken could also be a reaction to her marriage being broken too. “’If I'd 'a' listened to folks, you'd(Mattie) 'a' gone before now, and this wouldn't 'a' happened," she said; and gathering up the bits of broken glass she went out of the room as if she carried a dead body...” (Wharton, chap 7). This shows that Zeena believes that if Mattie had
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