The Importance Of Naturalism In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

Superior Essays
Starkfield; where “the vitality of the climate and the deadness of the community” perfectly affects a place where nature is the ruling factor (Wharton 7). Edith Wharton 's Ethan Frome depicts a town that is heavily affected by nature and through her rich language, Wharton creates a world that is abundant with imagery, but lacking in the development of characters. It 's people are a product of their environment and thus cannot escape it 's role in their lives. Thus nature in the novel is overpowering its characters. Due to these traits, this book is primarily a naturalistic text. Ethan Frome demonstrates naturalism through its depiction of characters, specific diction, and constant references to the environment throughout the course of the work. …show more content…
Initially in the book, readers are offered “If you know Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the post-office” (Wharton 3). Wharton here chooses to place emphasis on the setting, rather than the people. This creates the idea that to understand the people that one must understand the setting first, and that the setting is more important than the people it contains. This fully supports the idea of naturalism that a person is a product of their environment. This tactic is again utilized when the story of Ethan is given in the line “The village lay under two feet of snow, with drifts at the windy corners” and when it continues to describe the setting before a character is even …show more content…
She utilizes words that can either be used for the setting or her characters. By doing so, Wharton is emphasizing the role that nature plays in a person 's life. For instance, in the beginning of this work when Ethan Frome is introduced, words such as powerful, bleak, and ruin are used to describe him. These words are not only ones that can be applied to a person, but also that can be directly applied to the book 's setting, Starkfield. Furthermore, certain words are continuously repeated to place emphasis on how nature 's elements are playing a role within these characters. For instance, the word natural is repeated, to emphasize the role of instinct within these characters. One instance of this is Ethan 's description of Mattie 's lack of domestic knowledge. He states, “Mattie had no natural turn for housekeeping” (Wharton 31). Further along, Ethan mentions that it would be “natural enough” for Mattie to be leaving him and Zeena (Wharton 42). This emphasis on nature taking its course and of instinct displays the irresistible force that nature has on people. The word lonely is also heavily utilized in description in this work. What makes this word so interesting is the context in which it is used. Wharton writes when depicting Ethan 's home that it is “one of those lonely New England farm-houses that make the landscape lonelier” (Wharton 17). This line is placing emphasis on the

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