Character Analysis Of Ethan Frome, By Edith Wharton

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Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton is a tragic novella following Ethan Frome as he attempts to express his feelings for the one he truly loves, Mattie Silver. Ethan, however, is already married and feels obligated to care for his wife, Zeena. Over their 7 year marriage, Zeena has fallen perpetually ill and requires more aid than Ethan can give. In order to provide her the help she needs, they hire Mattie Silver, Zeena’s cousin. Zeena’s illness harks back to Ethan’s mother’s illness, from which Zeena was hired to help. Upon Zeena caring for Ethan’s mother, Ethan felt indebted to her and therefore married her. Because of this obligation, Ethan fails to convey his affections to Mattie multiple times. With each failure, however, Ethan’s feelings for …show more content…
Ethan is infatuated with Mattie, who is attractive, young, and energetic. As opposed to Zeena who is prematurely aged, caustic in temperament, prone to alternating fits of silence and rage, and utterly unattractive. Because of these characteristics, Wharton renders Ethan’s desire to cheat on his wife perfectly understandable. However, Ethan refuses himself to even contemplate committing such a “crime.” After Zeena states she is leaving for the night to find a new doctor, Ethan replies with, in an attempt to stay home with Mattie, “‘I’d take you over myself, only I’ve got to collect the cash for the lumber.’ As soon as the words were spoken he regretted them, not only because they were untrue-there being no prospect of his receiving cash payment…” (*)Ethan has not yet done anything to soil the integrity of his marriage to Zeena, yet on account of his overbearing sense of morality he feels terrible for lying to his wife. Later on that night Wharton provides a prime example of the grip Ethan’s marriage has on him. As Mattie sits down in Zeena’s rocking chair “...her young brown hair detatched itself against the patch-work cushion that habitually framed his wife’s gaut countenance, Ethan had a momentary shock. It was almost as if the other face, the face of the superseded woman, had obliterated that of the intruder.” (37) Ethan himself introduces Zeena into the room when, as Mattie sits in Zeena’s rocking chair, he mentally transposes Zeena’s face onto Mattie’s body. This act reveals Ethan’s subconscious desires and fears. Although he wishes to love Mattie unrestricted, he also lives imprisoned in anguished torment with regard to the consequences, which embody themselves in the appearance of Zeena’s eerie

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