A life of discontent in ethan frome by edith wharton

I simply felt that he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight, tragic as I guessed that to be, but had in it, as Harmon Gow had hinted, the profound accumulated cold of many Starkfield winters. He meets Mattie the cousin and Zeena the wife. The situation existing in the House of Frome is an odd one and his natural curiosity spurs him to start an informal investigation into the life of Ethan Frome.

A life of discontent in ethan frome by edith wharton

Plot[ edit ] The novel is framed by the literary device of an extended flashback. The prologue, which is neither named as such nor numbered, opens with an unnamed male narrator spending a winter in Starkfield while in the area on business. He spots a limping, quiet man around the village, who is somehow compelling in his demeanor and carriage.

This is Ethan Frome, who is a local fixture of the community, having been a lifelong resident.

Wace, Walter E.

Frome is described as "the most striking figure in Starkfield", "the ruin of a man" with a "careless powerful look…in spite of a lameness checking each step like the jerk of a chain".

Curious, the narrator sets out to learn about him. Chance circumstances arise that allow the narrator to hire Frome as his driver for a week. A severe snowstorm during one of their journeys forces Frome to allow the narrator to shelter at his home one night. We then embark on the "first" chapter Chapter Iwhich takes place twenty-four years prior.

The narration switches from the first-person narrator of the prologue to a limited third-person narrator. Mattie is given the occasional night off to entertain herself in town as partial recompense for helping care for the Fromes, and Ethan has the duty of walking her home. It is quickly clear that Ethan has deep feelings for Mattie.

When Zeena leaves for an overnight visit to seek treatment for her various complaints and symptoms in a neighboring town, Ethan is excited to have an evening alone with Mattie.

During this evening, the narrator reveals small actions that show that they each have feelings for the other, including a lingering of touching hands on the milk jug, although neither openly declares their love. Ethan then goes into town to buy glue for the broken pickle dish, and upon his return finds that Zeena has also come home.

Zeena retreats upstairs, proclaiming her illness, and refusing supper because she is not hungry. There, she informs Ethan that she plans to send Mattie away and has already hired another girl to replace her, claiming that she needs someone more efficient because her health is failing more rapidly than ever.

Ethan is angry and frustrated to the point of panic by the thought of losing Mattie, and he is also worried for Mattie, who has no other place to go and no way to support herself in the world.

Mattie reacts with shock but rapid acceptance, trying to calm Ethan, while Ethan becomes more agitated and begins to insist that he will not let her go.

Moments later, they are interrupted by Zeena, who has decided that she is hungry after all. After supper, Zeena discovers the broken pickle dish and is heartbroken and enraged; this betrayal cements her determination to send Mattie away. Ethan, miserable at the thought of losing Mattie and worried sick about her fate, considers running away with Mattie, but he lacks the money to do so.

He feels that he cannot abandon Zeena because he knows that she would neither be able to run the farm nor sell it the poor quality of the place has been discussed at several points in the story already.

Every plan he thinks of is impossible to carry out, and he remains in despair and frantically trying to think of a way to change this one more turn of events against his ability to have a happy life. The next morning, Zeena describes her specific and imminent plans for sending Mattie on her way.

Panicked, Ethan rushes into town to try to get a cash advance from a customer for a load of lumber in order to have the money with which to abscond with Mattie. Ethan returns to the farm and picks up Mattie to take her to the train station.

They stop at a hill upon which they had once planned to go sledding and decide to sled together as a way of delaying their sad parting, after which they anticipate never seeing each other again.

After their first run, Mattie suggests a suicide pact: Ethan regains consciousness after the accident but Mattie lies beside him, "cheeping" in pain like a small wounded animal.

Ethan is also injured, and the reader is left to understand that this was the "smash-up" that left Ethan with a permanent limp. The final chapter or epilogue again unnumbered like the prologueswitches back to the first-person narrator point of view of the prologue, as Frome and his visitor, the narrator, enter the Frome household two decades later.

The narrator hears a complaining female voice, and it is easy to assume that it belongs to the never-happy Zeena, but in the final twist of the story, it emerges that it is in fact Mattie, who now lives with the Fromes due to having been paralyzed in the accident.

Her misery over her plight and dependence has embittered and "soured" her, and, with roles reversed, Zeena is now forced to care for her as well as Ethan.

In an agonizing irony, Ethan and Mattie have gotten their wish to stay together, but in mutual unhappiness and discontent, with Mattie helpless and paralyzed, and with Zeena as a constant presence between the two of them. Development[ edit ] The story of Ethan Frome had initially begun as a French-language composition that Wharton had to write while studying the language in Paris[2] but several years later she took the story up again and transformed it into the novel it now is, basing her sense of New England culture and place on her 10 years of living at The Mount, her home in Lenox, Massachusetts.

She would read portions of her novel-in-progress each day to her good friend Walter Berry, who was an international lawyer.Ethan Frome is considered by many critics to be Wharton's finest work, although the rural setting and length is atypical of her output.

She wrote the work in a determined effort to take a setting she felt was overly sentimentalized by her fellow female authors and strip the location of cozy `samplerism'/5(). Readers of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome () can hardly fail to be moved by the suffering of the title character.

A life of discontent in ethan frome by edith wharton

Ethan is, quite literally, a physical and emotional wreck. Ethan is, quite literally, a physical and emotional wreck. The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the s, beginning in the United leslutinsduphoenix.com timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in and lasted until the lates.

It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is. Edith Wharton wrote Ethan Frome as a frame story — meaning that the prologue and epilogue constitute a "frame" around the main story.

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The "frame" is The Narrator's vision of the tragedy that befalls Ethan Frome. The frame story takes place nearly twenty years after the events of the main story and.

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