The Use Of Imagery In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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It is unusual in a story for the setting to serve the function of a character. In the novella Ethan Frome, the setting takes on a major role by mirroring the evolving mental state of Ethan Frome, the story’s reticent protagonist. The author Edith Wharton, uses the literary element of imagery to incarnate the inanimate setting in order to serve as an additional character. The imagery Wharton uses describing the snowy New England countryside, gives the reader the ability to observe Frome seeing the world at first, as colorless and hopeless. Later, Wharton uses imagery about the setting again, to reveal Frome’s transition to seeing that same world as brilliant and auspicious. Although the mental state of characters in many novels are conveyed through dialogue, Edith Wharton explores the thoughts and feelings of her characters through a silent character, the setting. At the beginning of the novella, Frome’s state of mind shifts from dull to bright, mainly due to the introduction of a love interest into his life. Wharton illustrates Frome’s mood change through comments made over time, describing the rural New England …show more content…

Through the use of imagery, Wharton helps the reader form mental pictures to illustrate the thoughts and emotions of her characters, without such characters having to provide this information directly, through dialogue. In many character evolution stories, a character’s demeanor typically brightens with the change of seasons, from winter to spring. In Ethan Frome, however, the winter landscape remains static throughout the novella. What does change are the character’s reactions to it. The words and phrases that Wharton uses to describe the setting so effectively express Frome’s emotional state, the otherwise silent setting becomes a vital non-silent character in the

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