Literature 221 I010
21 March 2015
Ethan Frome: Uniquely America
While reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton there were many themes and imagery that was used to develop the environment to help illustrate the different parallels between Ethan Frome, the main character, and the many circumstances and feelings of his decisions and experiences. Many people would say that Ethan Frome is just wanting to live an American dream and have a life full of happiness. Unfortunately, Ethan’s life was a series of unfortunate events that did not encourage self-growth and reflected the nuisances he felt from the results of the decisions Ethan made. Ethan never completely gave up hope, but he may have not remembered or possibly he has truly accepted his place in life. Zeena’s cousin, Mattie Silver, ignited a spark deep inside of Ethan that would change his life forever. Ethan then constantly finds himself working hard to impress the youthful Mattie Silver which starts to cause a unfathomable strife Ethan has enduring the unemotional and diminutive behavior of his wife Zeena. The desires and hope of Ethan Frome contribute to his affection and growing adoration that he cultivates for Mattie and are reflected by the developing of his environment in the story.
Edith Warton frequently wrote about unhappy marriages, and herself divorced a mentally-ill husband at a time when divorce was a hot topic. Wharton was particularly critical of American marriages in which the husband looked down on the wife because she took no interest in his business affairs, and the wife retaliated by spending enormous amounts of money.(LitCharts.com) This could be the reason why she wrote Ethan as a timid, mild mannered man that gives in to his unemotional and unbearable wife Zeena. A brief summary of the story will help to understand the desires and hope that Ethan had for his life that did not go the way he wanted. Ethan had a dream to become an engineer, but those dreams were thwarted the moment his father dies and he returns home to take care of his sickly mother and to manage the family farm. Ethan marries his mother’s caregiver, Zeena, because he felt he was obligated to do so. Zeena is an unemotional and diminutive woman that manipulates Ethan into defeat which kept him in an unhappy state. Zeena also seemed to be a hypochondriac which she used as a means of manipulation as well. All of a sudden Ethan was rejuvenated with a spark of life when he see Mattie, Zeena’s cousin, and becomes taken with her. Mattie is the representative of everything that Ethan gave up for his life with Zeena and his deceased parents. Ethan wants to leave his wife, Zeena, for a happy and loving life with Mattie, but is not emotional or financially sound or strong enough to start that life with his beloved Mattie. Mattie feels the same about Ethan and loathes the way Zeena treats herself as a superior to others and especially the constant manipulation of Ethan. When Zeena leaves town to visit the doctor, Mattie tries to seduce Ethan. Mattie and Ethan’s relationship starts with a great amount of awkwardness that it is almost paralyzing. Although there is awkwardness in their relationship, Ethan uses this opportunity to become a dominant figure and reassures Mattie that he will protect her from Zeena’s wrath because the cat broke Zeena’s pickle dish that Mattie used without permission. Zeena decides to make Mattie pack up and leave because she becomes aware of the relationship between Ethan and Mattie. Instead of the farmhand taking Mattie to the train station Ethan decided that he would take it upon himself to take her. On the way to the train station they ride past a sledding area where they first fell for each other. They decided to stop and go for one last ride down the hill, when they get to the bottom Mattie convinces Ethan to go down one more time, but this time to aim for the huge elm tree at the bottom and kill themselves so they