Ethan is a vulnerable and tormented individual. He suffers a lot of emotionally, his father's death and his mother's sickness. And as if that weren't enough, Zeena, his wife, is a hypochondriac. Zeena faithfully cared for Ethan's mother till her deathbed, and Ethan was grateful for this. He married Zeena because she was his mother's caretaker until she died. Primarily, he married Zeena because he cared too much about what others thought about him, and he would be looked down upon and be seen as ungrateful if he didn't marry her. After enduring the death of both his parents, he is left alone and desperate for some comfort and love in his life. He felt forced to marry to Zeena; due to his grief, he wanted someone in his life, and felt that Zeena would be the solution to his problems. Ethan is influenced by loneliness, and the thought of not having anyone to brighten his life causes him to act on impulse, and marry Zeena. Once they are married, Zeena proves to be a terrible companion; Ethan is miserable and lonely, and he lusts for Mattie, the housemaid. Loneliness persuades Ethan to marry the wrong person, and to lust for someone that he cannot be with in his situation.
Ethan is a moral man, and refuses to lie for his selfish benefits. He refuses to abandon his sick wife, who will be left penniless, unhappy, and in need of someone to care for her. Although being moral is a positive thing, Ethan is willing to sacrifice his freedom just to adhere to society's moral standards. He entertains the thought of deceiving Mr. Hale into handing him a loan so that he can run away with Mattie, but after much thought he decides it is not worth lying to him. Ethan needs the money desperately, as he is poor and cannot even afford a train ticket for himself and Mattie, but his morality controls him. He is such a victim of moral standards and what society expects of him, that he would rather remain under Zeena's control.
Ethan's wife becomes sick, she feels countless sorts of "troubles" and Ethan is subservient and faithful to her. Zeena becomes more of a task to him than a wife; he must constantly care for her and answer her every request. Ethan never expected this "sickness" to be a part of Zeena, and he is unhappy while he is with her. On Zeena's temporary leave to visit a doctor, Ethan is ecstatic and is filled with a sense of freedom now that he does not have to put up with Zeena's "troubles". "The sweetness of the picture, and the relief of knowing that his fears of 'troubles' with Zeena. Mattie is in the middle, and must put up with all of Zeena's complaints and learn to live with her, as she is the housemaid and wants to remain living there. Zeena is a victim to her sickness, it controls her and makes her believe she is sick , when in reality she is not. Zeena is in a tough situation, she is unhappy believing she is sick and brings unhappiness onto others with her never ending complaints about her "troubles" and her refusals to eat. Zeena cannot help being controlled by her sickness and bringing unhappiness to Ethan and Mattie.
Zeena alienates herself from Ethan and this is partly the reason why Ethan does not feel affection toward her. Zeena is so absorbed with herself, that she does not show any affection or care for Ethan, she is only concerned about herself. Ethan lost both his parents and he is looking for company, and Zeena is not at all close to Ethan. She constantly locks herself up in her room and isolates