Ethan Frome, the main character in the book entitled Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, has many complex problems going on at the same time. His family has died and he has a wife that is continually sick, and the only form of happiness he has is from his wife’s cousin Mattie. This, however, at times proves to be hard because of Ethan’s wifes interference. Nothing seems to be going in Ethan’s favor. One theme of the book is weakness of character; this is shown by Ethan’s marraige, his inability to stand up to his wife, and his involvement concerning the “accident.”
The first way weakness of charcter is shown in the book is through the marriage of Ethan and his wife. He married her because she had tried to help his mother recover from an illness, and once his mother died he could not bear the thought of living in the house alone. His wife was seven years his senior and always seemed to have some kind of illness. It seemed all she ever did was complain, and he resented this because it stifled his growing soul. Since his wife was continuously ill, and her cousin needed a place to stay, they took her in to help around the house. Ethan took an immediate propensity to her cousin, Mattie, because she brought a bright light upon his dismal day. He seemed to have found someone that cared for him, was always happy and could share his youth, unlike his sickly wife who always nagged him. He longed to be with Mattie, however he had loyalty to his wife. He did not have the courage to stand up to society and resolve the error that he commited by marrying his first wife.
The second example of weakness of character was not being able to stand up to his wife. His wife claimed that a new doctor said that she was extremely sick, and needed more help around the house. She told him without any discussion that Mattie had to go. Ethan could not find the words to make her alter her decision. His wife also decided that Mattie had to leave the next day itself and Ethan could not do anything about it. It was stated in the book that his wife had the upper hand in the house by the line “Now she [his wife] had mastered him [Ethan] and he obeyed her.
Free Essays on Wharton’s Ethan Frome: The Story Begins
The Story Begins
The novel, Ethan Frome, begins with a statement from the narrator who reveals that the story was told to him in bits from various people who told it differently each time. The story is set in Starkfield, Massachusetts, a small rural New England town whose name reflects its sluggish and bleak nature. The narrator recounts the first time she saw Ethan Frome, the “most striking figure in Starkfield” who is not striking because he is handsome, but because of the air of ruin that surrounds him. At that time a man of fifty-two years of age, he seems much older. One member of the community, Harmon Gow, tells the narrator that Frome had an accident twenty-four years ago that left the right side of his body considerably damaged. Everyday, Frome goes to the post office about noon, receiving little in the mail except the newspaper, but every once in a while he gets a letter addressed to Mrs. Zenobia, or Mrs. Zeena. Harmon tells the narrator that the accident which caused Ethan’s current physical condition was very severe, but Ethan was a tough man and strong enough to live on. Harmon also tells him that Ethan had to stay in town, where most of the smarter people born there end up leaving, because he had to take care of his family, specifically, his father, mother, and wife.
The narrator is in town because of a strike at the company he works for in Corbury Junction has caused delays. Starkfield is the nearest habitable town so he had taken up lodgings with a widow named Mrs. Ned Hale. One day the narrator is need of ride to Corbury Flats where he is to catch a train to the Junction. When the horses on which he usually depends fall sick, Harmon suggests that Ethan, a poor man always in need of a little money, might be able to give the narrator a ride. The narrator is surprised to find out just how poor Frome really is, and Harmon explains that what little money that comes from his family’s saw-mill and farm goes into care for his family. The next day, Ethan drives the narrator over to Corbury Flats and back again in the evening; he continues to do so everyday for a week. Through their conversations, the narrator slowly finds out that Frome has an interest in science, which surprises him.