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Essay on Wharton’s Ethan Frome: Tale of the Living Dead

Tale of the Living Dead

Ethan Frome, by Edith Warton is truly a tale of the “living dead”. Don’t be confused by the way this term is used in movies, where the living dead are corpses that rise from the ground. In this case, the term “living dead” refers to a person who is physically alive but emotionally dead. In the novel, Ethan Frome all three main characters are emtionally dead.

The characters have been emotionally dead since the “smash-up” in which Ethan and Mattie had crashed their sled into a tree. This crash left them both injured severely. The Fromes were poor before, but after, with Ethan only able to do a little work, they were poorer than ever. Never a social man, Ethan cut off the few relationships that he had maintained so his old friends would not see his poverty. The townspeople speak of Ethan, Mattie, and Zeena in the past tense, just like they refer to dead people. When Mrs. Ned Hale talks about Ethan and Mattie she said, “Yes, I knew them both … it was awful..” Ethan even talks about himself in the past tense. When asked if science interested him he replied, “It used to.” Nothing is happening to Ethan in his present life so he could only refer back to his past one. When Mrs. Hale was asked if she went out to Ethan’s house often, she replied, “I used to go a good deal after the accident, when I was first married; but …” This visitation is just like that to a graveyard. Right after a person dies his grave is visited often. After awhile relatives and friends get on with their own lives and make these trips rarely.

Another reason why the three main characters are emotionally dead is they do not communicate with other people. Mrs. Ned Hale, when remarking on the fact that the narrator had stayed in Ethan’s house said, “I don’t believe but what you’re the only stranger has set foot in that house for over twenty years.” All living people communicate with others regularly. Not only did the main characters act like living dead, they looked liked living dead. Edith Wharton describes Zeena:

“A slatternly calico wrapper hung from her shoulders and the wisps of her thin grey hair were drawn away from a high forehead and fastened in the back by a broken comb.

Setting, Symbolism and Oppression of Women in The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper: Setting, Symbolism and Oppression of Women

Have you ever been locked in a dark closet? You grope about trying to feel the doorknob, straining to see a thin beam of light coming from underneath the door. As the darkness consumes you, you feel as if you will suffocate. There is a sensation of helplessness and hopelessness. Loneliness, caused by oppression, is like the same darkness that overtakes its victim. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” recounts the story of a young mother who travels to a summer home to “rest” from her nervous condition. Her bedroom is an old nursery covered with ugly, yellow wallpaper. The more time she spends alone, the more she becomes obsessed with the wallpaper’s patterns. She begins to imagine a woman behind bars in the paper. Finally, she loses her sanity and believes that she is the woman in the wallpaper, trying to escape. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses setting and symbolism to suggest that imprisoning oppression causes a type of loneliness (in women) that can lead to a deadly form of insanity.

Gilman uses setting to suggest that imprisoning oppression causes a type of loneliness that can lead to insanity. Gilman’s young mother describes the nursery bedroom “with windows that … [are] barred for little children” (426). In the above passage, the barred windows seem to intensify her oppression, and her perception that she is being imprisoned. Gilman also uses the young woman’s description of the summer home to express her feeling of being all alone. “It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of Eng…

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…chniques that Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses in “The Yellow Wallpaper” to suggest that a type of loneliness (in women) caused by imprisoning oppression can lead to the deadliest form of insanity. By using setting, Gilman shows how the barred windows intensifies the young woman’s imprisoning oppression, the isolated summer home represents the loneliness the young woman feels, and her hallucinations of the wallpaper pattern indicates her transition to insanity. Wallpaper symbolism is used throughout the story the pattern representing the strangling nature of the imprisoning oppression, the fading yellow color showing the fading away of the young woman, and the hovering smell representing the deadly insanity to which she succumbs. Like the darkness that quickly consumes, the imprisoning loneliness of oppression swallows its victim down into the abyss of insanity.

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