The Tragic Hero In Ethan Frome By Edith Wharton

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In the case of Ethan Frome, the fictional protagonist highlighted in the novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, life had never been able to live up to his expectations. Frome aspired to escape his dreary hometown of Starkfield, Massachusetts and distinguish himself in a big city as an engineer, but these dreams were put on hold when his mother fell ill and Frome was left to care for her. When Frome met Zeena, a fellow caregiver of his mother and his future wife, he saw that she could be the perfect tool to allow him to begin a new and exciting life. However, Zeena soon fell ill, and Frome fell out of love with her and into love, or rather infatuation, with the new caregiver, Mattie. Although Frome, like many individuals belonging to today’s society, …show more content…
Therefore, Ethan Frome can be labeled as a tragic hero; one who is destined for greatness but ruined by his own shortcoming. Zenobia Pierce Frome, or Zeena, was presented as one of the “obstacles” of Ethan Frome’s life that kept him from his dreams. However, Ethan did not always think of Zeena so negatively. Upon first meeting Zeena, Frome was “shamed and dazzled” (Wharton, pg. 29) by her voluble and knowledgeable presence within his quiet and boring household. Frome thought of Zeena as a refreshing change to his atmosphere and one that promised a more interesting lifestyle. Naturally, when Frome’s mother passed and Zeena was to leave, “he was seized with an unreasoning dread of being left alone on the farm; and before he knew what he was doing he had asked her to say there with him.” (Wharton, pg. 29) …show more content…
Frome was haunted in Starkfield by what he considered the failed lives of his ancestors who had never gotten away from their drudgery. Frome was driven primarily to leave the area and start anew by “his restlessness, his desire for change and freedom.” (Wharton, pg. 21) Although Frome’s intentions of leaving were innately good, the manner he went about achieving these dreams through selfish ambition led him into disaster. He abandoned marital and social commitments to his family’s reputation and wife and used a young, promising woman in an effort to find a way out of his destiny. Frome justified his ambition by reasoning that “he was too young, too strong, too full of the sap of living, to submit so easily to the destruction of his hopes.” (Wharton, pg. 55-56) The carelessness of Frome’s actions came back to bite him in the long run as he was eternally stuck with the wife he never loved taking care of him and his now lame and bitter lover. Ethan Frome’s ambition caused him to act in a careless manner that had lasting repercussions in his life as well as his wife’s and lover’s. Although Frome was characteristically good and pure in his search for a better future for himself, his tragic flaw of ambition marred any hope he had of succeeding. Ethan Frome was noted to have a “look in his face which…neither poverty nor physical suffering could have put

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