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Ethan Frome: Explore the Idea of Communication Among the Characters in the Novel

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To be noble you must possess high or excellent qualities. In the novel there are many examples of Ethan Frome being a noble person this is evident throughout his relationship with Zeena, Mattie, and other characters. Ethan put his life on hold and has always been there for his family especially Zeena; however, after Ethan and Zeena married she became ill a year later which put a negative effect on their relationship. Zeena became asexual and a very boring person. Denied a normal life, Ethan is shown he is noble by putting his life on hold to go help his family. “Somebody had to stay and care for the folks. There warn’t ever anybody but Ethan. Fust his father-then his mother-then his wife”.

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Ethan fantasizes Zeena’s death in hope for freedom. Stated in the text, Poverty and a succession of insane, dependent women prohibit his ever having the liberty to follow his aspiration. Zeena was a dependent women who constricted him from following his desires. Similar to Wharton’s conclusion on her mother, she constricted her from many experiences throughout her life. Both Ethan and Wharton were prisoners for life because of Zeena and her own mother. Lucretia’s consistent rejection and abandonment repressed her dreams and aspirations in life. According to Ammons, Wharton’s fear of maternal rejection was portrayed through each women figure in Ethan Frome. Stated in the text, First Ethan’s mother abandons his needs; then Zeena, his mother’s replacement, does the same. Although Mattie is not a mother figure, her abandonment transforms Wharton’s fear to all female abandonment. Reverting back to Ammons proposal of Zeena, Wharton describes Zeena as witchlike. Ammons states, Witchlike Zenobia Frome, a terrifying and repulsive figure archetypally, is in social terms not at all mysterious: it is a commonplace of scholarship about the persecutions of witches, that many of them were ordinary women bent and twisted by the conditions of their lives as women, their isolation and powerlessness. Similarly to Wharton’s mother, Zeena was an evil person who portrays her own isolation onto other people. Wharton’s characters presented clear characteristics based on her own life and the interactions she had with her mother. Many critics cannot seem to grasp the true meaning behind Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome. Many who read this novel seem to be mesmerized by the idea that this novel is a product of Wharton’s imagination. Stated in the Cynthia Griffin Wolff excerpt, Ethan Frome is no more than a figment of the narrator’s imagination (130). Wolff believes that her novel does not recount any experience that the narrator has gone through. Stated in the text, Ethan Frome is nothing more than a dream vision. Perhaps it’s a dream vision of a better life

A better life with her mother that she longed to have. It is difficult for a reader to depict a story that ultimately is not present on paper. It is also understandable to say that her experiences are in fact portrayed in the text, but between the lines. Concluding the analysis of Ethan Frome, it is critical to understand that Wharton’s life was an important aspect in writing this novel. Edith Wharton’s novel is centered primarily around the life of her own and her unconscious mind. The unconscious mind takes over the conscious when writing her work, without even realizing it. Due to her lack of unconscious control, Ethan Frome would not allow for the reader to connect the relationship she had with her mother and the life of Ethan, Mattie, and Zeena.

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This plan excites Ethan who assents to it immediately, with high expectations of spending a night alone with his desired woman

However, tension between the two lovers grows higher that Ethan fails to consummate his passion for Mattie. At this point, the narrator employs symbolism to reveal the difficulty involved when immorality is due. On the other hand, the cat, which represents the presence of the official wife shatters Zeena’s marriage pickle dish. This signifies the collapsing relationship between Ethan and Zeena (Canby 34). Later that day before they retire to bed, Ethan gets closer to demonstrating his love, but again he fails to do so. By losing this special opportunity, Ethan’s misery is definitely on the rise. Perhaps, he hopes to extend his extramarital intentions soon enough before Zeena reports back. Like the previous day, Ethan spends another sad night. Moreover, Ethan’s inactivity concerning the planned exit of Mattie leaves him hopeless. Torn between morality and social norms, Ethan keeps on postponing the revelation of his feelings to Mattie at the expense of his happiness. As the head of the family, Ethan has all the rights to make decisions. Unfortunately, his wife dominates over him that he has no say at all in regard to family matters. Besides, the narrator makes it clear that Ethan is not fully settled on whom to love. This is seen when he runs into town to get some glue for fixing the smashed dish. Here, Ethan gambles between the pleasure presented by Mattie and the obstacles created by his wife. When Ethan returns that evening from town, he is deeply frustrated when he realizes that his wife is back. Additionally, the wife wants attention from him since her health is on the decline. Therefore, Mattie is to be replaced with a younger and more efficient girl. This latest development angers Ethan very much but as usual, he decides to remain quiet and hurt. Instead of Ethan opening to Mattie about his feelings, he goes ahead to tell her how Zeena intends to replace her with another girl. This is definitely another area where he fails to act and finds himself unhappy, now that Zeena has become suspicious of his relationship with Mattie. Consequently, his docile nature coupled with the demands of Zeena leaves him hopeless (Canby 40).

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Summing up, Ethan Frome struggles internally over the thoughts of Mattie and Zeena. He absolutely loves Mattie and cannot imagine his life without her when Zeena plans to replace her. Ethan loved Mattie from as soon as he met her. Ethan's favorite parts of being with Mattie were the walks back to their farm. Ethan looked forward to these for weeks in advance. Though he saw her every day, he enjoyed the walks home the most: "...but no moments in her company were comparable to those when her arm in his, and her light step flying to keep time with his long stride, they walked back through the night to the farm..."

Ethan loves the walks home with Mattie simply because he gets to be alone with Mattie. He loves simply feeling her body next to his as they walk close together to stay warm. Ethan truly loves everything about Mattie.

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Canby, Vincent. “Liam Neeson in Lead of Wharton Classic.” The New York Times 8.2 (2007): 21-50. Print.

Dodson, Samuel F. “Frozen Hell: Edith Wharton’s Tragic Offering.” Edith Wharton Review 16.1 (1999): 20-31. Web.

Edith, Wharton. Fiction of Edith Wharton. New York: Charles Scribner, 1922. Web.

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