Ethan Frome Symbolism Essay

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Choice of Narrator

In the introduction of Ethan Frome, the reader learns that the narrator is an engineer sent by his employers to work at Corbury Junction. The narrator symbolizes what Ethan wanted to be; an engineer not anchored to Starkfield. He also was very observant and interested in Ethan. He wondered how Ethan ended up the way he did. He meets a man, Harmon Grow, and he tries to get more information about Ethan from him. One thing he said stuck with him forever, “Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away.” (Wharton, 9). At first, he doesn’t understand what this meant. However, as he spent more time in Starkfield, he realized that Ethan had spent too many winters there; this ultimately shaped the
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Around chapters 4 and 5, Zeena is out of town and Ethan and Mattie have the house to themselves. However, even though they’re alone, Zeena’s presence and energy is still there via the cat. The first odd thing the cat did was knock over Zeena’s pickle dish, her one prized possession. “The cat, profiting by this unusual demonstration, tried to effect an unnoticed retreat, and in doing so backed into the pickle-dish, which fell to the floor with a crash.” (Wharton, 48). It appeared as if the cat was trying to cause trouble for Mattie; sounds like something Zeena would do, right? The pickle dish in this scene is also a key symbol; it symbolizes the broken relationship between Ethan and Zeena. Again, the cat acted just as Zeena would. “The cat, who had been puzzled observer of these unusual movements, jumped into Zeena’s chair, rolled itself into a ball, and lay watching them with narrowed eyes.” (Wharton, …show more content…
Ethan was so miserable and only wanted Mattie; she was the only person that could shed light on his dark life. In comparison, Mattie cared deeply for Ethan; he was the only one that ever did her a kindness. In contrast, Zeena and Ethan had a broken relationship and they resented each other. Towards the end, we realize that Mattie truly loved Ethan back, so much that she couldn’t bear parting without him. Therefore, she thought it would be best if they could die together. Ethan insisted on sitting in the front and Mattie in the back, maybe to ensure his death and her survival? This backfired completely; Mattie almost died and was badly impaired for the rest of her life. After the ‘accident’, Zeena took Mattie back in and took care of them for over twenty years; her illness managed to ‘clear up’. The main tragedy for Ethan is that he got everything out of his life that he feared. He was stuck with a woman he was married to and a woman he loved, all in silence and immobility, while each longed for something different. The stigma that built up over the years put a toll on Ethan, as Ms. Hale said, “You would see Ethan’s face and it would break your heart… He suffered the most out of all of them.” (Wharton,

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