Ethan Frome Essay

Submitted By patob3
Words: 744
Pages: 3

In the novella, Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton the environment and surroundings play a huge role in the story and also have major effects on the main character, Ethan Frome. The story takes place in Starkfield, Massachusetts, part of New England, where the climate in the winter can be quite gruesome. The weather even has an effect on the people. In Starkfield the weather and the people seem to be cold, sluggish and quiet this time of year, especially Ethan Frome. He is a man who has not even lived to see his fifty-third birthday yet, but our narrator says, “He looks as if he was dead and in hell now!” (pg.6) Ethan’s surroundings have truly affected what he looks like and how he acts. However, the weather is not the only thing that has affected Ethan’s way of life and his demeanor. We are told close to the beginning of the prologue that Ethan was in a bad “smash-up” many years in the past. This type of accident would kill most men, but not Ethan because he is tough and has thick skin. Wharton does a great job at hiding details about the “smash-up” throughout the prologue, keeping the reader guessing and curious to what it could have been. This “smash-up" not only affects Ethan directly, but also indirectly. People in Starkfield treat him differently. Our narrator tells us, “Everyone in Starkfield knew him and gave him a greeting tempered to his own grave mien; but his taciturnity was respected and it was only on rare occasions that one of the older men of the place detained him for a word.” (pg.5) Maybe Ethan preferred it this way, maybe he would rather be secluded and left alone. His way of acting, Harmon believes, is due to Starkfield. In a conversation between Harmon and our narrator, Harmon says, “Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away.” (pg.6) Ethan could not escape because he had to stay and take care of his family. Even after Ethan’s “smash-up”, he was still the one caring for them. Harmon said, “Oh, as to that: I guess it’s always Ethan done the caring.” (pg.6) Although Ethan may seem grave to most of the people of Starkfield, this shows he also has a kind demeanor. Later in the prologue Ethan begins to show kindness and hospitality to our narrator by driving him each day, and then in the middle of a storm, letting him spend the night at his house. Although Ethan may come off as quiet and reserved, people of Starkfield seem to immediately stereotype him as a cold old man. Very few of them have been able to experience the real Ethan. Most of a grown person’s way of life and personality have a lot to do with the way they were raised and their childhood. Ethan, as a young boy and even a young man, lived in