The Importance Of Society In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome

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We have all been told that we are in charge of our destiny, that it is up to us to determine

what our future will look like, and that we are in control of the choices we make. What if

that were not the case? What if we have been fooled into believing that everything is in

our hands and then we try our hardest to end up becoming something that has already

been planned for us by a power larger than existence? The Naturalism genre conveys the

power that our society and social restraints have on our destiny. In Ethan Frome by Edith

Wharton, the main protagonist (Ethan) displays a perfect example of how society shapes

a person by him being completely under the influence of society’s restriction with his

wife Zeena and later Mattie. That
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From the beginning of the

novel, the theme of how society is an undefeatable obstacle is portrayed through Ethan.

This theme is carried out through the end of the novel when the reader finally discovers

the true story of Ethan Frome and is able to see Mattie, Ethan, and Zeena all trapped in

winter in Massachusetts. This leads readers to think about the reasons behind why we still

try to go out of our ways to strive for something that we know we can never defeat and be

something that will never last. Hence, how and why are we still trying to diverse society

through different ways of life and thinking, when there will always be that next obstacle

thrown at us by “natural order” to try to get us back to how we were and how it wants us

to stay.

Through Ethan and Mattie’s “smash-up”, author Edith Wharton was conveying

the theme of how a person’s future is not truly in their control, while they were under the

illusion that it was. As the narrator discovers more and more about Ethan Frome, the

reader discovers that as Ethan and Mattie were running away from Massachusetts and at

the same time controlling their future, society restored its order by getting them to

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