Theme Of Irony In Ethan Frome

Decent Essays
5. Ethan’s misery is both a result of the uncontrollable circumstances around him and the unwise decisions of Frome. Starkfield itself was a place where a dead community contrasted the vital climate (Wharton 7-8). Frome belonged to this dead community, and his emaciated look was obviously not the result of poverty or physical suffering alone—in fact, the unnamed narrator noticed that Frome’s refined interest in the sciences sharply contrasted his outer situation, proving that his misery came from a complex situation (Wharton 15). Ethan lived in a “complete absence of atmosphere”, forced to end his studies prematurely after his father’s death (Wharton 24). He could not control this; therefore, he was not responsible for this aspect of his misery. …show more content…
The historical fiction genre of the novel aptly captures Ethan’s morose circumstances, encompassed by irony. Edith Wharton constantly used irony in her novel to delineate her characters and the blatant misery in the plot. One of the ironies was when Ethan repeatedly saw Zeena’s face in the rocking chair while coasting; this instance is ironic because of how Ethan is deliberately coasting with Mattie to avoid Zeena, yet her face appears in front of him, demonstrating how he could never leave his stark reality in Starkfield. Another ironic instance was when Mattie mirrored Zeena’s locking the door in that rigid manner; this is ironic because of how Mattie, the only lively entity left in Ethan’s life, was becoming stark, silent, and serious like Zeena. Ethan Frome’s life was encompassed in such subtle moments of irony, or quirks of fate. When his mother became ill, the house became lonely and silent; only when Zeena arrived did Ethan restore his balance, describing Zeena as “smart” and “efficient”, words he would later regret (Wharton 61). Following his mother’s unfortunate death, left with only Zeena, Ethan asked her to stay with him, simply to avoid loneliness; the irony here is that, within one year, Zeena became sickly and silent, just like his mother! The love between Ethan and Mattie itself was unsuccessful, never meant to happen. When Ruth and Ned had kissed under the spruces, they had done so legitimately, since they were an engaged couple (even though they were …show more content…
Throughout the novel, Edith Wharton presented a variety of positive and negative images that provided depth to the characters and the storyline itself. For instance, the “cherry-coloured ‘fascinator’” about Mattie’s head was a positive image, literally giving her a fascinating quality (Wharton 26-27). The scarf’s color, a light shade of red, is a symbol of passion, joy, sensitivity, love, desire, and emotional intensity; therefore, the scarf accentuates Mattie’s passion and exuberance, making her seem youthful, as Ethan Frome later pointed out, since the color of the cherry scarf was present in her “fresh lips and cheeks” (Wharton 48). Another image Wharton used to amplify the effect of the plot was the presence of “rigid gooseberry bushes”, which Mattie and Ethan had to walk through to arrive at the back of the house (Wharton 46). These gooseberry bushes create a stiff, harsh atmosphere and foreshadow Zeena’s uncanny silence and the queer instance of being locked outside their own home. Also a negative image, the “dead cucumbervine” symbolizes the “crape streamer tied to the door for a death”; this is obviously a harbinger of Frome’s desire to get rid of his wife and Zeena’s imminent death (Wharton 45). The plethora of negative images associated with the overall atmosphere indicates that Starkfield itself is a gloomy and harsh place; in fact, the word stark refers to something barren and harsh—creating the ideal setting for the tragic tale of Ethan Frome, where

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