Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

In the sorrowful tale of one mans struggle and inner conflict between choosing the woman he loves or the woman he is to ever remain faithful to, lies the heart wrenching story of Ethan Frome. Ethan Frome is spun from the cold desperate town of Starkfield, Massachusetts, where it is forever gray and dreary, much like the life Ethan is condemned to. Ethan is first introduced as old and beaten down, both in the physical and mental sense. He has an air of hopelessness blanketing him and it is nearly impossible to catch a glance of the carefree young man he must of once been. It is said that fate in wraps this story, and though it is true that fate has been hinted by subtle clues through out the tale, upon closer examination and a different mindset, it is possible that Ethan is his own worst enemy by choosing to believe in such things as fate instead of writing his own path.

As the reader gets further along in this book Ethan’s story of how he came to be the haggard old man, we are first introduced to, becomes more and more impossible. As it is pointed out on page 62 Ethan had never intended upon spending the rest of his days in Starkfield. “When they married it was agreed that, they would sell the farm and saw-mill and try their luck in a large town” But that dream was soon diminished due to Ethan’s “sickly” and attention needing wife. If Ethan put aside his timid and nice self to stand up to his wife he might of someday achieved his dream. But Ethan’s character is one of self proclaimed helplessness always longing for something more yet never doing anything about it. The realization of what Ethan must learn to accept as his life dawns upon him when he walks by the Gravestones bearing his relatives names, all who lived their lives in the same hopeless town, and a part of him has acknowledged this is what his fate is soon to become.

In this gray world, how ever, one speck of hope alights Ethan’s life with color, dreams, and the dangerous longing that will eventually lead to his destruction. Her name is Mattie Silver and with her lies everything the young Ethan Frome is denied.





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