The Major Conflict In Ethan Frome, By Edith Wharton

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“Ethan Frome” written by Edith Wharton was published in 1911, taking place in the small town of Starkfield, Massachusetts, focusing on the love life of Ethan Frome. Ethan Frome is a farmer on a poor farm left to him by his father who passed away while he was in college; Ethan came back to care for his mother and thankfully help came from his cousin, Zeena. When the mother died Ethan saw no choice but to marry her, if he didn’t he would be alone the rest of winter. A year passes and everything seems well until Zeena falls “ill” and becomes a sour loveless woman. Ethan feels miserable until Mattie Silver moves in with them after getting too sick to work in the city. Desires bubble to the surface but the affair between Mattie and Ethan ends after …show more content…
Even some of the townspeople comment that they believed he could have gotten out of town for good “Most of the smart ones get away.” But if that were the case, how could any combination of obstacles have hindered the flight of a man like Ethan Frome?” (Wharton 4). The answer starts when his father died and he was forced to drop out of college to take of the family farm and his mother. This is when Ethan met his future wife Zeena. Throughout the book Ethan struggles against Zeena, the external conflict, and does what she wishes with only a small amount of resistance; this keeps up to the end of the book and Ethan grows to despise his wife “Zeena herself, from an oppressive reality, had faded into an insubstantial shade. All his life was lived in the sight and sound of Mattie Silver, and he could no longer conceive of its being otherwise” (Wharton 20). We don’t see a major change in the plot until Zeena makes the final choice to send Mattie off and Ethan makes sure he takes her to the train station. However, Ethan agrees with Mattie’s decision to try to kill themselves than to live without one another. The conflict in the book is mainly internal, as Ethan does not wish to hurt his wife but is tired of his loveless marriage. Edith Wharton wrote “Ethan Frome” around the time her marriage began to fall apart. It had never been a perfect match, her husband, Edward R. "Teddy" Wharton, and her were not compatible mentally or physically. Teddy’s mental health began to fail and he committed acts of adultery and the two divorced. Edith Wharton had read “The Scarlet Letter” and roughly based her novel off of it, along with her loveless marriage. Wharton had been pressured into finding a husband by her family for a couple of years before Teddy came along, she complied

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