Society's Morals In Ethan Frome And Age Of Innocence

Submitted By bluezander5
Words: 1565
Pages: 7

Alex Davis
English II H
May 27, 2013
Society’s Morals

Society has had great influences on people’s individuals’ decisions for centuries. Affecting what’s “appropriate” or “inappropriate” to say or do. Ethan Frome and Age of Innocence both explore these so called moral codes and the affects that they can have on people. The books were written during the 1910s and early 20s, a point during history where society had a very critical role in people’s decision making. Especially on marriage in which each partner is supposed to do specific roles, and stay with their spouse “till death do them part”. In Ethan Frome and Age of Innocence Edith Wharton demonstrates the affect that societies “moral codes” have on the individual decision making of people and how they are looked at. Ethan is almost forced to stay with Zeena due to the moral codes of society. Zeena makes Ethan extremely miserable and he doesn’t see what he first saw in her when they originally got married. Now that he sees what she is liked compared to a lively and beautiful Mattie. He wants to leave her, but he is stuck with her do to the expected morals that society has created. Ethan is kept from having happiness and is forced to stay miserable with Zeena. Especially when Zeena kicks Mattie out Ethan is torn whether or not to leave cause of societies morals. Men were expected to be the workers while the woman stay home, and men were supposed to always watch over their wife (Wukovits 52). Men can’t supposedly just abandon their wives since they have no way to fend for themselves. Ethan being influenced by society thinks, and in result asks Hale for an advance in the money that he owes him so that he can leave it for Zeena. He’s denied though, it is like he is being denied by society the ability to leave. Since Ned an average man in society cannot give him the money. Society’s reason for his denial is that men were supposed to act accordingly (Allen). Society restricts people from finding their true love, as it is frowned upon to leave or divorce. Zeena’s restriction of Ethan’s freedom also shows how society can influence people’s action because “Women were the guardians of morality, they were made of finer stuff then men” (Allen). Zeena is the one holding the morality over Ethan’s head with her sickness. Not allowing him to enjoy a happy and wonderful life with someone he truly loves. In the 1910s people really had little choice in the happiness of their lives though, as shown in the book. Men were supposed to marry women that abided by societies rules. Wharton even had the reason of Ethan’s marriage in the first place be due to society’s moral codes. When someone does something for you, you are expected to repay them in some sort of way, as a common courtesy (Nygren). Since Zeena had helped Ethan take care of his sickly mother he felt obligated to ask for her hand in marriage. He was blinded by the morals of society and what he thought he must do that he couldn’t see what Zeena was truly like. His decision making was greatly affected, because he can now see that he does not actually love Zeena. Wharton makes the end of the novel extremely ironic, because Ethan finally musters up the strength with Mattie to break through society’s morals. He decides to commit suicide since he can’t stand being miserable for the rest of his life, but due to a botched attempt he becomes disfigured. Like he was being punished for going against society’s morals, and now Zeena, the person he should be taking care of is now taking care of him. The American life is directed by whatever society feels is important at that time. Earlier all society cared about was religion, so everyone was extremely religious. Now society is focused on morals, so everyone is expected to follow the morals of society, and it is even demonstrated in literature. Ellen is forced away from true love because of the society’s morals. Ellen is not the typical women of the 1910’s. She doesn’t