Internal Conflict In Wharton's Ethan Frome

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In this scene of Edith Wharton’s novella Ethan Frome, he recalls his conversation with Mrs. Hale. Initially, this conversation provides Ethan some clarity about his ongoing internal conflict with his passions and obligations. In Ethan’s perspective, Zeena is becoming more of an unbearable burden, as she had become an “evil energy” that “had mastered him” (Wharton 50). Isolating him, Ethan looks to find comfort in Mattie, who has an emotional relationship. Hence, Ethan feels the need to run away with Mattie from his previously oppressive life, with the sympathetic words of Mrs. Hale motivating him. However, as the scene closes, Ethan begins to realize the impact societal and personal pressures truly have on him.
He started down the road toward their house, but at the end of a few yards he pulled up sharply, the
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For the first time, in the light of the words he had just heard, he saw what he was about to do. He was planning to take advantage of the Hales' sympathy to obtain money from them on false pretences. That was a plain statement of the cloudy purpose which had driven him in headlong to Starkfield.
With the sudden perception of the point to which his madness had carried him, the madness fell and he saw his life before him as it was. He was a poor man, the husband of a sickly woman, whom his desertion would leave alone and destitute; and even if he had had the heart to desert her he could have done so only by deceiving two kindly people who had pitied him. (Wharton 60-61) Wharton’s word choice lets the reader gain insight of the imprisoning cage Ethan’s mind is in through his indecisiveness. When she writes, “in the light of the words he had just heard, he saw what he was about to do” Ethan

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