Guilt And Isolation In Ethan Frome, By Edith Wharton

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Ethan Frome Is guilt the result of isolation or illusion? Did isolation arise due to guilt or was the illusion brought on due to guilt or isolation? These are questions that can be probed throughout Edith Wharton’s novel and answered by an evaluation of the main characters. Isolation is the underlying cause and motive of the three main characters and even rests in the setting of the novel. Guilt is a deep seeded emotion that often drives behavior, even unknowingly. This is Ethan’s struggle. And, distinguishing between illusion and reality intensifies both the guilt and the isolation. Guilt, isolation and illusion/reality are the three most significant themes present in Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome because these are the themes that mold, …show more content…
Her appearance gives the impression of isolation as she is old and does not have feminine qualities as would be expected from a female character in the era in which the novel was written. Zeena has false teeth, fake hair and has an appearance that is gaunt. Even her accent seems to set her apart from others. She is described as quiet and secretive. Zeena also places a sense of isolation about herself by her constant exaggerations. “When she spoke it was only to complain (70). Although she may have a few legitimate illnesses, she seems to think she has many. Those who are ill are also set apart from others. Finally, Zeena’s isolation imposed by her husband, Ethan, is the result of his interest in …show more content…
She lives with Ethan and Zeena as she is cousin to Zeena. The death of her parents is the reason she moved to their home, yet her actions in the home made her appear more as a servant than a relative which attributed more to the idea of isolation as well. While she is staying there, Mattie’s sense of isolation is also apparent in her relationship with Zeena, whom she can tell does not like her. Then upon being kicked out of the home by Zeena, Mattie has nowhere to go. After the accident, Mattie becomes paralyzed from her neck down and this as well, is a sign of isolation. Being unable to participate in normal human activities would press upon a person a very strong sense of isolation. Thus Mattie’s character, all in all, is about isolation. What is clear about the theme of isolation, is that each prominent character is experiencing in it in his or her own way. Ethan’s isolation may indeed by the result of the guilt he has carried throughout this life. Zeena’s isolation as well may be the result of guilt. As for Mattie, her isolation is not the result of guilty but something else. This could be due to her own illusions, it really is not clear as she is being described in the novel by Ethan and we are not getting her own impressions and

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