Zeena In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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Edith Wharton's book Ethan Frome is the tale of a man, his wife and the woman he falls in love with. Ethan marries Zeena but falls in love with Mattie who is the opposite of his wife in every way. Where Zeena is sedentary and a sickly woman, Mattie is exciting and lively. In an ironic turn of events the woman he falls in love with transforms into a mirror image of his wife. Ethan married Zeena, out of fear of being alone for the rest of his life and suffers an unhappy and loveless marriage because of it. "After the funeral, when he [Ethan] saw her [Zeena] preparing to go away, he 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 with him." (36) Ethan first met Zeena…show more content…
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
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