February 8 2017

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

Describe our narrator.

Some questions you may want to consider:

  • Who is he?
  • What is he doing in Starkfield?
  • Can we rely on his judgment?  Why or why not?
  • What does the narrator learn about Frome from other characters?
    • What effect does this knowledge have on the narrator?
    • On the reader?

As always, please follow the rules of standard American English in your comment and reply to your classmates comments as the discussion evolves over the course of the evening.

Some reminders:

  • Quality is very important.  Make sure you provide ample detailed, text-based evidence for your observations
  • Quantity is ALSO very important.  A well-developed blog with ample evidence tends to be 300-500 words.


Remember also, that a part of your homework tonight is to annotate the text (use lots of post-its to mark interesting, surprising, or confusing passages – and mark on the post-its what your thoughts are).  Also, write at least 2 (two) EXCELLENT discussion questions to spark tomorrow’s conversation.

Ethan Frome blog #2

Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

Posted February 8, 2017 by equinson in category Ethan Frome

41 thoughts on “I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

  1. tarika1

    The narrator in the first chapter is always watching Ethan Frome. He reveals the details he sees and the analysis he thinks of. Most likely, the narrator is used to allow the author to share someone else’s perspective of Frome instead of putting the story in the eyes of Frome. The narrator shows us how Frome stays away from large crowds of people, such as the dance that was going on, but he would go in if he saw Mattie.
    His character also seems to be sort of mysterious and ominous. Readers don’t get much information about it besides him recently getting to Starkfield and him seeing Frome everyday when he gets his mail at noon. The lack of information about the narrator is what causes the mysterious vibe that he has. I think readers can trust the narrator because he seems to have no bias and he describes the situation well, which shows how there is no reason to not trust him.

    1. christophert3

      I agree, his whole presence is very mysterious. But the fact that you bring up how there isn’t anything we should question about him goes against that adage that Ms. Quinson had us read. So if we were to follow the adage and not believe what he tells us, wouldn’t that mean that we should think of his whole version of Ethan Frome’s story as a lie? Confusing questions…

  2. Toa Neil

    I notice that the narrator might be ethan himself, as the narrator is always there. Also he analyzes things through someone else’s eyes to allow us to be logical and unbiased about himself.
    I also notice that no info is given except that he was at the post office at the same time as ethan, but what if he is ethan. And since he seems to be no one we will trust him.

  3. alexo

    Ethan Frome’s narrator is a very curious person. The second he sees Ethan Frome, he is curious. It seems in his nature to go around and learn about other people. Maybe not the direct way, but still try to know them nevertheless. Or, he may just be someone stuck in a bleak town, with almost nothing to do and a hungry mind. Either way, he wanted to know about Ethan Frome.

    “It was there that, several years ago, I saw him for the first time; and the sight pulled me up sharp.”

    He asks around, trying to figure out the story of Ethan Frome. He asks everyone he knows and tries to piece together details. He interrogated Harmon Gow, trying to figure out something, anything to lead him in the right direction of Ethan’s story.

    “I had this from Harmon Gow, who had driven the stage from Bettsbridge to Starkfield in pre-trolley days and knew the chronicle of all the families on his line.
    “He’s looked that way ever since he had his smash-up; and that’s twenty-four years ago come next February,” Harmon threw out between reminiscent pauses.
    The “smash-up” it was-I gathered from the same informant-which, besides drawing the red gash across Ethan Frome’s forehead, had so shortened and warped his right side that it cost him a visible effort to take the few steps from his buggy to the post-office window. He used to drive in from his farm every day at about noon, and as that was my own hour for fetching my mail I often passed him in the porch or stood beside him while we waited on the motions of the distributing hand behind the grating.”

    The narrator was sent up to the area by his employers, to work with the “big power-house at Corbory Junction.” A carpenter’s strike delayed the work, causing the narrator to be stranded in Starkfield until Winter was over.

    “I had been sent up by my employers on a job connected with the big power-house at Corbury Junction, and a long-drawn carpenters’ strike had so delayed the work that I found myself anchored at Starkfield-the nearest habitable spot-for the best part of the winter.”

    As for whether we can trust him or not, I would. Although we don’t everything in the world about him, he seems to be a nice, trustable fellow.

    What he learns from other characters is most of Ethan Frome’s story. He is told about his “smash-up”, his wife Zeena, his sick parents, and Mattie.

    1. alexo

      For a class debate, I’ve thought of two questions:

      Why is the narrator so curious about Ethan Frome? Aside from the initial shock, most people would continue living their normal lives, but the narrator was obsessed with Frome.

      WHhy is Ethan 7 years younger than Mattie and 7 years older than Zeena? We’ve already brought it up in class, but I believe we should discuss the topic more, and go deeper into what it really means.

  4. caias1

    The narrator in Ethan Frome is a person who does not follow the adage, “believe half of what you see, and none of what you see.” He asks many people in Starkfield about Ethan Frome and his “smash-up,” instead of just asking Ethan Frome himself. On page 7, he states, “I listened every evening to another and more delicately shaded version of the Starkfield chronicle.” The narrator is an outsider, “sent up by my employers on a job connected with the big power-house at Corbury Junction, and a long drawn carpenters’ strike had so delayed the work that I found myself anchored at Starkfield…” (pg 6) He learns very little about Frome from other characters, because they are very reluctant to tell Frome’s story to him. As far as relying on his judgment, I would not. He strikes me as very nosy, and he is, after all, a stranger.

  5. faithw

    The unnamed narrator is an engineer who arrives in Starkfield, Massachusetts to work at a power plant close by in Corbury Junction. He is not part of the story, but his role is to tell Ethan Frome’s tale in the third person. It is through the narrator that the reader learns of Ethan Frome’s tragedy. The engineer is a stranger to the town who becomes very interested in learning about Ethan Frome. He asks questions about him to the local townspeople, but they do not provide much information. For example, Harmon Gow gives him little details, but says that “he’s been in Starkfield too many winters” (p.5). His landlady, Mrs. Hale, is initially reluctant to answer his questions but later gives him some information. I would not have complete faith in the information he learns because none of it was obtained from him directly. As a stranger to the town, everything he learns is through other people. As is evident in the quote provided, “I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story” (p.3), the story changed with every person he spoke to.

  6. charlottes

    The reader can see that the narrator in “Ethan Frome” has many distinct characteristics, even if we don’t know much about them. He is an engineer who is in Starkfield to work at a nearby power plant. His part in the book is telling the story of Ethan Frome’s life. He is a curious individual. Ever since he saw Ethan Frome, he’s always been interested in his story. The reader doesn’t know who he is or what his name is. All we know is that he believes everything he hears. On the first page of the novel, he states, “I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.” As he gets all these different opinions on the story, he takes bits of each and pieces them together into the story we know today. This concept relates to last night’s blog. Last night, we blogged about the old adage, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” He didn’t know the story of Ethan Frome before, but from listening to other people’s interpretations, he told us the story. From this, we cannot tell which parts of the story are true and which are false. From hearing different stories from other characters, the narrator may have also put together the parts that he wanted to hear, excluding the harsh parts that he thought wouldn’t please the reader. With this information, the reader has to use their judgement to see which parts they presume to be true.

  7. francescaa

    In the first chapter of Ethan Frome, the reader was introduced to the a very important character, the narrator. Although we don’t know too much of the narrator’s background, we do know some important details. This man in an engineer who came to Starkfield to pursue his career working at a local power plant. Everyday the narrator sees a crippled man when he passes the post office, and begins to wonder who this man is and what in the world happened to him. As a curious man himself, he begins to ask the townspeople on what they know about Ethan Frome and his “smash-up.” As he goes from person to person, he discovers that everybody has a different story. This connects to the adage we had on our blog last night. The adage was “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.” This coincides with the findings of the narrator about Ethan Frome’s ‘smash-up.” The narrator didn’t hear the same story more than once, which proves the fact that the villagers had their own interpretation of what occurred that evening. Can the reader rely on the narrator’s judgement? That is a difficult question that can be supported on both sides. If one says they cannot trust the narrator I would understand because he doesn’t seem to have too much knowledge. In addition, in the beginning of the book he is essentially saying that everybody who sees Ethan Frome would automatically ask what happened to him. The purpose of this statement is to intrigue the reader, which is a good author’s craft move. However, it fails to consider the population as a whole. In the last unit we learned that you cannot create a good argument by saying you agreed because other people agree on the same topic. The narrator’s statement is way to general, and therefore not credible. “…. and you must have asked who he was.” On the contrary, one could say they do think the narrator’s judgment is credible. In no way does the narrator seem bias. Also, even with all the stories he had heard, he still wanted to hear the story from the man himself. He realized that he couldn’t believe what the other townspeople said because they could have very well twisted words or told the tale from a different perspective. I applaud the narrator for wanting to get the story from Ethan himself and chances are he will discover much more by directly talking to Ethan. After all, it is easier to grasp a concept if you and the teacher are in the same room.

  8. ilyssal

    The narrator of “Ethan Frome” has some very distinct characteristics in the novel. We know he is an engineer working at a power plant in Starkfield. As he is extremely curious about Ethan Frome’s life, he tells us the story of Ethan through his eyes. The narrator receives his information about Ethan through those around him, the gossip he overhears and the people he interrogates about Ethan’s life. According to the narrator, Ethan’s life story is altered by everyone he asks. They know bits and pieces of his situation and when the narrator puts it all together, it is evident certain aspects are missing. The narrator does not abide by the saying which titled one of our previous blogs. He trusts the word on the streets and does not investigate deeper into the stories people tell him about Ethan.

  9. laurena2

    Although we do not know much about him, the narrator in Ethan Frome has many different characteristics. We do not know his name, however we know that he is in Starkfield to continue his engineering career by working at a power plant. He always comes across a crippled man and has many questions regarding who he is and why he looks so disheveled.

    The narrator states that “I listened every evening to another and more delicately shaded version of the Starkfield chronicle.” By stating this, he makes me wonder if the story is really an accurate representation of what actually happened to Ethan Frome. The narrator seems to be heavily reliant on the description of Ethan Frome that others told him about. This goes to show us that the narrator is curious but impatient. Instead of looking further into details, he mixed all three different stories to create one, mashed up and most likely inaccurate story.

    He does not follow the rules of the old adage. Instead of believing none of what he hears, he believes half of it. The halves of the individual stories make up the one big story. Instead of believing half of what he sees, he believes all of it. Why is the narrator so trusting? Why does he believe so much of what he sees and hears?

    1. avae1

      I agree completely that the narrator was so curious that he trusted the citizens of Starkfield on their stories of Ethan Frome.

  10. briannag3

    Even though we are not told the narrators name we do know why he is in Starkfield. He wants to continue his engineering career and works at a power plant. He is curious about Ethan Frome and asks around the town about him, getting a different story every time. The story of Ethan is told through the narrators perspective, but is basically just a mixed up version of all the stories that he hears from the people he asks. This makes me think back upon the old adage, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” The narrator doesn’t doubt what he hears. He blindly believes the stories heard from others without a second glance at what they said. He doesn’t challenge the statements from anyone and doesn’t mind that the stories he’s heard don’t have any factual evidence to back them up.

  11. avae1

    The narrator of “Ethan Frome” showed interest and curiosity with the mysterious life of the citizens of Starkfield. He seemed to live in Starkfield for the purpose of pursuing his career as an engineer. He came in contact with an unusual, crippled man, and discovered that his name was Ethan Frome. The nameless narrator asked members of the community in order to gain more knowledge on Ethan’s complex story. He inquired to people such as Mrs. Ned Hale, and Harmon Gow. The narrator learned that Ethan had remained in Starkfield for a long period of time, and lived on a farm that brought in little money. He also lost his father and had to take care of his dying mother, and then his ill wife. These people provided him with what seemed to be accurate information about Ethan’s life, but in reality these sources cannot be fully trusted. Neither one of them was truly there to witness these occurrences they told of. Additionally, there is a great chance that Harmon or Mrs. Ned Hale had forgotten some details. “Though Harmon Gow developed the tale as far as his mental and moral reach permitted there were perceptible gaps between his facts, and I had the sense that the deeper meaning of the story was in the gaps.”(p.5) These people had learned a lot about Ethan over the years, and what they said could be true. However, they are probably missing out on some important facts. Therefore, the narrator can learn some basic information from the locals but will definitely seek for more clues on a firsthand basis.

    1. francescaa

      I agree very much with what you said. A firsthand account is always much more reliable than a secondhand one.

  12. christophert3

    After rereading pages 3 to 36, I noticed many things. First of all, we don’t really know where the narrator comes from. All we know is that this story that he’s narrating happened a while ago. Second, I just realized that the narrator was sent by his employer to work at Corbury Junction, but a strike of the carpenters delayed the work, leaving him stuck in Starkfield. I also saw that when Harmon Gow, the rich grocer, told the narrator about Ethan’s problems, he never mentioned Zeena being sick, which leads me to wonder how the narrator was able to talk about it in his story. I noticed he had an engineering job before, meaning he’s an engineer still? It seems to me that the author only meant for the narrator to be on the side, wanted the reader to focus more on Frome than on the narrator. The author doesn’t say were the narrator comes from. We don’t even have an idea of how he looks. So he was most likely there as a side character, just a creative way to narrate the story. One thing I realized was that, when the narrator learned the story, Zeena was in the room too. So this led me to realize that only the sight of Zeena and Mattie allowed to narrator to finish his idea of Ethan Frome’s background. These are the things about the narrator that I was able to milk out of the text by closely reading that part.

    1. maddy

      I also noticed how Edith Wharton barely elaborated on the narrator, which one may find peculiar and unconventional. The prologue focused far more on Ethan than the narrator. I wonder why Ethan himself did not narrate the novella.

  13. arihantp1

    The narrator of Ethan Frome is very curious of Ethan Frome and his life. The narrator is an engineer who arrives at Starkfield in order to pursue a career in working at a power plant. The minute he sees Ethan Frome he is struck by Ethan’s figure and starts to investigate Ethan Frome. He asks many residents of Starkfield for information on Ethan Frome but gets a different story each time. However all of the residents admit Ethan’s story is a sad one, which further ignites the narrator’s curiosity. “‘Yes I knew them both… it was awful…’ seeming to be the utmost concession that her distress could make to my curiosity.” (pg.8). He finally meets Ethan and he finally learns the truth to Ethan’s story. The narrator is trustworthy since he presents the story from an unbiased perspective, and he seems to have finally heard Ethan’s story from Ethan himself. “‘Come in,’ he said; and as he spoke the droning voice grew still… It was that night that I found the clue to Ethan Frome, and began to pt together this vision of his story.” (pg. 16).

  14. sofiad1

    Our narrator is a middle-aged man who has recently moved to Starfield. He is in Starkfield for his full-time job. His judgment cannot truly be trusted on account of the fact that he gets most of his information on Ethan from around the town, often resulting in different stories from everyone. He acknowledges this from the start when he says, “I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.”(page 3). Here, he is effectively telling the reader that they should take his information with a grain of salt. From others, he found out that the Frome family had lived there for centuries. He also finds out that Frome would have left and gone to engineering school had his father not died. When the narrator asked why he didn’t, Harmon points out, “Somebody had to stay and care for the folks.”(page 5). From this, we can conclude that Ethan is most likely discontent with is life because of all his missed opportunities, and the narrator has an increased respect for this man.

  15. marinas1

    In the first section of Edith Wharton’s novella, “Ethan Frome”, we are introduced to our narrator, who goes unnamed. This narrator is an engineer who was sent by his employers to work at the power plant at the Corbury Junction. When the narrator is in the village, he sees Ethan Frome, and immediately becomes interested in his demeanor. He then proceeds to ask the townspeople about Ethan Frome, and, as the narrator states, “…each time it was a different story.” (p.1) Although each account of Ethan’s past is different, the consensus is that his past is a melancholy one. Harmon Gow, a man who used to drive people from a nearby town, Brettsbridge, to Starkfield, is the first mentioned account. He states “‘Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters…Somebody had to stay and care for the folks. There warn’t ever anybody but Ethan. Fust his father-then his mother-then his wife.'” (p.5). He then goes on to say that after the smash up, he was never able to get out of Starkfield again. This section is the first of many where we see Ethan Frome as a trapped character, who simply can not get out of his dreary town and to bigger and better places. That is important, for it is the first clue we get about Ethan’s past.

    As we readers see the narrator ask people about Ethan Frome, it brings up the question: if no one really knows the true story of Ethan Frome, how can our narrator possibly have a reliable account? This is when having already read the story becomes helpful. In the “flashback”, there are some major holes in the plot. For example, at the end of the story, Zeena, Ethan’s wife, spontaneously stops being sick and begins to take care of Ethan and Mattie after their “smash-up”. There is no explanation given of how or why. This plot hole seems too important to be deemed insignificant. At the very end of the the first section, it says “Frome stamped on the ward oil cloth to shake the snow from his boots, and set down his lantern on a kitchen chair which was the only piece of furniture in the hall. Then he open the door… It was that night that I found the clue to Ethan Frome, and began to put together this vision of his story.” (p.16). This quote proves that the narrator assembles the story based on what he sees inside Ethan Frome’s home. I also highly doubt Ethan Frome would have been keen on telling the narrator his life story, regardless of the quote at the end of page sixteen. Therefore, it would not be very intelligent to trust the entirety of the narrator’s story.

  16. cameronl3

    We readers learn much about the narrator of Ethan Frome, who goes unamed throughout the story. The narrator is an engineer who has come to Starkfield to work at a nearby power plant. He’s an educated, upper middle class man who becomes very interested in Ethan when he sees him along the village. Following up on his investigation, he begins to ask the townspeople about the man. Each and every time he would rt a different story and perspective of the man’s background, but with one similarity: it is a quite depressing one. He then meets Ethan From and learns the so called “true story” of his life. I believe that his account is reliable, due to the fact it is not biased, and that he has gotten his “evidence” from Ethan himself.

  17. maddy

    The prologue of “Ethan Frome” introduces readers to its narrator. I find the narrator intriguing for a myriad of reasons. For the entirety of the novella, Edith Wharton kept the narrator innominate, and did not specify their gender. Essentially, all readers know of the narrator’s backstory is that they are an engineer who is temporarily in Starkfield because their employers sent them there on a job connected with the big power-house at Corbury Junction. Our meager knowledge of them leads me to wonder why Edith Wharton incorporated a narrator. Personally, I do not feel as if the narrator’s judgement is reliable. This is so because although they are arguably perceptive and unbiased, readers know so little of them.

    Edith Wharton’s lack of elaboration on the narrator can be said to have emphasized the narrator’s arguably peculiar fixation with learning more of Ethan Frome. This fixation began with the narrator seeing Ethan Frome for the first time, and noticing his “striking” appearance. What spiked their interest the most was how bleak and unapproachable they found Ethan. Hence, the narrator was induced to inquire of him. The inquired townspeople told them their varied interpretations of Ethan’s saddening backstory; how his life was riddled with illness and tragedy. We became knowledgeable of how Ethan spent years tending to his ill parents and wife before he got into a considerably damaging “smash-up.” This knowledge furthered the narrator’s fascination with Ethan. It additionally caused them to feel sympathetic, for they learned of how tough Ethan’s life had been.

    I noticed the possibility that Ethan and the narrator are similar. The narrator had a fixation with Ethan somewhat like the fixation young Ethan had for Mattie. In the first chapter, Ethan professed how he was fascinated with Mattie the moment he laid eyes on her. Likewise, the narrator became fixated with Ethan the moment they saw him. Young Ethan was fascinated with Mattie due to how he viewed her as different from the others. From Ethan’s viewpoint, Mattie stood out. She had the same “appeal of natural beauty” Ethan had, which he described to be a rarity. The narrator’s fixation with Ethan began with them noticing how different he looked compared to the other townspeople. This fixation continued once the narrator confirmed that Ethan was not different from the other townspeople just in terms of appearances.

    Something else I noticed is how the narrator seems to follow the advice, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” They were not satisfied with listening to merely one account of Ethan. Rather, the narrator inquired numerous people of him and his backstory in order to expand their knowledge on the subject and confirm what they heard. In addition, it can be inferred that the narrator decided to ask Ethan to transport them to the train station and agreed to spend the night at his home during the blizzard partially because they wanted to learn more of him and further confirm what others had told them about Ethan.

    1. eshap

      I never thought about how the narrator follows the saying, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” I completely agree with this. The narrator does not completely trust the accounts of Ethan Frome from the townspeople.

  18. margauxc

    In Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome”, which shares the tragedy of the title character and his misadventure in love- the narrator, which introduces and concludes the novella, remains to be anonymous/unnamed- but is emphasized to be a man of curiosity. The narrator is an engineer, as revealed by his interest in modern sciences and biochemistry. His position as an engineer is further confirmed on page ten, when the narrator reveals, “Once I happened to speak of an engineering job I had been on the previous year in Florida.” The narrator arrives in Starkfield due to him acquiring a job with a powerhouse at Corbury Junction. It is revealed that Starkfield, Massachusetts may not have been the narrator’s first choice as to where he would stay, seeing as he states, “I found myself anchored at Starkfield- the nearest habitable spot- for the best part of winter. I chafed at first…” (pg. 06) Though the narrator voices his initial annoyance with Starkfield, he soon becomes indulged when faced with the uncanny character of Ethan Frome. From further analysis, Ethan seems to personify Starkfield at first glance- grim, desolate… stark. Through different perspectives, the narrator is able to piece together that Ethan used to be passionate and full of life until, what Harmon Gow describes as a “smash-up”, occurs. During his stay in Starkfield, the narrator rents a room from Mrs. Ned Hale/Ruth Varnum- who is described to be hesitant when sharing parts from her account of Ethan Frome’s life. The narrator’s judgement and re-account of Ethan Frome’s story does not seem to be reliable. His narration is based off mere rumours- and the somewhat small amount of information he receives from Ruth Varnum may be biased- seeing as Varnum used to be close to Mattie Silver before the smash-up. The narrator himself though, seems to have a fair judgement- seeing as he does not immediately treat Frome any different after all the rumors he’s heard from Gow and the first impression he received.

  19. adam

    The Narrator is, for all we know is an average man. He is in Starkfield because he is working full time at a power house, living in a room rented to him by Mrs. Ned Hale. Here, he meets Ethan. He hires him to bring him to transport him back and forth from the train station. He is a peripheral character, as we do not know anything really about him. His age, name, and further details are all unknown. All we do really know is that he is an engineer. He is so inclined to Ethan because it reminds him of himself and what he could have came to be if he made better decisions. He only focuses on Ethan as he is the only character he is interested in. We can not fully rely on the narrator for information, as he recieves his information from locals and townspeople. Each townsperson has a different story, which can lead to inaccurate conclusions. The narrator does not nearly give as much attention or detail to other characters.

  20. George

    First off i would like to say that the narrator is a stalker. He goes to Starkfeild with the intention of qorking as an engineer however he becomes obsessed with Ethan Frome. He now wants to learn as much as he can about him however he never asks him directly. He gets all his information from second hand sources which in turn can mean that they may be lies made up to provoke conversation and gossip. In my opinion the narrator is a very very weird persona

  21. ivanl

    The narrator seems like a rather mysterious and creepy man. He spends a lot of his time outside of work trying to find out more about Ethan Frome. We know that the narrator is in Starkfield because he has a job here. He comes across Ethan when he transports him from work and back. The narrator is able to gain some more insight to Ethan when he invites him back to his house when they are caught in a blizzard. However, whatever the narrator knows about Frome, we also know. I don’t think we can completely trust the narrator with the information he gives us, because we do not know if the people he is getting his info from are reliable or not. Also, with the adage we got, our narrator never actually saw any of what he heard, so there is more reason to not completely trust him.

  22. eshap

    In the prologue of Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, the first sentence introduces us to the narrator. Throughout the  novella, the narrator is not given a name or gender, being merely a sort of observer of Ethan Frome’s life. Being an engineer, the narrator was on a job by his employers to work at Corbury Junction. As (he) goes to the post-office around noon each day, (he) sees Ethan Frome, and becomes interested with his character. The narrator asks the townspeople about Ethan Frome’s past, but does not receive a single answer. (He) proceeds with his job, and not being able to go to the station, gets a ride with Ethan Frome. Each day, the two sit in silence, with the occasional talk of engineering. We learn that he was once interested in engineering, never being able to complete his studies. Ethan had to give up engineering to take of his family and wife, and halted his studies with regret. He barely talks about it, showing his regret of not continuing. As we find later on, his initial plan was to go to a bigger city, but ongoing problem kept him in Starkfield. “Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters.” (page 5) The narrator receives this from Harmon Gow, and sees it as important. Ethan has tried many times to escape a monotonous life, unsuccessful each time a plan comes up. One day, a storm hits Ethan and the narrator as they were coming back, and Ethan generously offers the narrator to stay in his house. Walking inside his house, the narrator is able to take what the townspeople had told him and what he saw, and piece together Ethan’s past. “It was that night that I found the clue to Ethan Frome, and began to put together this vision of his story.”(page16)

    As mentioned before, the narrator’s main source of Ethan’s life came from the townspeople. (He) had no exact answer, each story different. The townspeople must have all had the same story in the beginning, but told it a different way to emphasize something different. The narrator had several accounts, which brings up the question: How does the narrator know which story is true? There is no way to know except to confront Ethan Frome. (He) goes to Ethan’s house, and seeing the condition he lives under, pieces together his life. (His) complete story is not completely accurate, and his judgement should not be completely trusted. The stories from the townspeople can be inaccurate, as well as the narrator’s own thoughts of Ethan’s life. The narrator would not know Ethan Frome’s story unless he knew Ethan from the beginning.

    The narrator seems to place a lot of trust into Harmon Gow, who gives him plenty of information about Ethan. “I had this from Harmon Gow…” (page 3) The narrator’s thoughts of Ethan’s demeanor even came from Harmon Gow. (He) seems to believe that every word he says is true, but does not put as much faith in some of the other townspeople’s accounts. (He) learns of Ethan’s father, mother, and wife through Harmon Gow, making his own conclusions as well. The narrator is introduced to how miserable Ethan’s life is by Harmon Gow. (He) takes this information in addition to what Ethan told (him) about wanting to be an engineer, and infers that he gave up his studies to help his family.

    1. alekhya

      Esha, I agree with you. The narrator is never told the full story of Ethn Frome but pieces it together with clues from the townspeople and Ethan’s present life. So based upon the narrator’s description we are not sure if this story is accurate or if it is a tale woven by this over zealous narrator.

  23. Tyler Newby

    The narrator is a mysterious that we don’t know much about. We know that the narrator has a job in Starkfield and we know that he has a lot of interest in Ethan Frome. The narrator says that he gained the story from many different people, each giving him a different story about Ethan Frome and his “smash-up.” The narrator says in the beggining of the story that he “had the story but by bit.” The narrator obviously does not follow the adage “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” but we can still trust his judgement. Some of the locals may have given the narrator false information or some kind of over exaggeration, however, the narrator shows no kind of bias. He even gives some kind of disclaimer that he got the story from rumors from the locals. I would be less enthusiastic to trust any of the locals, but the narrator seems to have some sense.

  24. Kat

    We never meet the narrator in Ethan Frome but, we do know a couple things about him. First of the narrator is a man and, he is trying to learn what has happened to Ethan Frome. We also know that the narrator met Ethan and eventually became good friends with him. Before this he was an engineer sent to Corbury Junction. While working there the narrator became fascinated with Ethan and began to ask many people who he is and what happened to him. The narration describes his rides home with Ethan. He says that Ethan is completely silent and he feels that this is because ” he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight, tragic as I guessed that to be, but had in it, as Harmon Gow had hinted, the profound accumulated cold of many Starkfield winters.”

    I found this part interesting, “I chafed at first, and then, under the hypnotising effect of routine, gradually began to find a grim satisfaction in the life.” (p.6). This doesn’t really add anything to the Ethan Frome discussion but, I noticed that this is almost like one of the stories in the podcast we listened to from, This American Life. There was a story about a girl who lived on a tropical island and then moved to Alaska. Originally she hated it there but then she relapsed into a routine and she began to like it there. This little piece of text just made me think of that.

    However I do not think that we can trust this narrators judgement. We do not actually know who this narrator is, and they are telling the story of Ethan Frome, but we do not know how much of it is true. The narrator admits that he got a lot of information from other towns people. We cannot trust these accounts because we do not know how much is fact and how much is gossip. Overall I think that the narrator of this story would have to be Ethan, Mattie, or Zeena for it to be trusted.

  25. alekhya

    The narrator of the novella, Ethan Frome, is and engineer who had been stationed at Starkfield for a job at Corbury Junction. During his/her stay the narrator sees Ethan Frome walking to the post office and is drawn to his figure. He develops an interest in Ethan Frome and begins to inquire details of his story from the townspeople. But when she asks around, most of the towns people just say that his story is a very sad one and that there had been an accident which had deformed his body. Not satisfied with these snippets of pity, the narrator turns to Harmon Gow for more information. Later on during his stay, the narrator comes in contact with Ethan Frome when he is to take him to the Corbury Junction. Some time later a storm hits Starkfield and Ethan Frome offers to take the narrator to his home for the night and it is there that the narrator pieces together Ethan Frome’s story.

    Based on the narrator’s backround and where from where he got his details I do not believe that his story should be trusted. The narrator claimed to receive information from the townspeople but that the story was different each time. It seems as if though the narrator has just pieced together a fantasy as to escape the boredom of life at Starkfield.

  26. Rebecca F

    The narrator in an engineer. He is in Starkfield for a job at Corbury Junction. I believe that we can trust his story because he is just as curious as we are to find out what happened to Ethan. He also seems to have asked many people about Ethan in order to get a valid, true background. He even noted that each person has a different story from the last person. What the narrator learns from the townspeople only adds more fuel to his curiosity. I believe that the reason he asks about Ethan’s story is because he is curious about his appearance and his limp.

  27. willowm

    The narrator is an engineer who was sent to work at Corbury Junction. While there he became interested in Ethan Frome. He saw he was troubled and thought there was no way physical pain could be responsible for the emotionless look on his face. He set out to ask people from the town to learn what happened to Ethan. He only came to a conclusion on what he believed was the story of Ethan Frome after staying in his house one night. I believe we can trust the narrator’s judgement because he is an outsider looking in on the situation, meaning that he has no previous judgement about Ethan. Also, he listens to everyone’s perspective to sift through the information and determine what was true. From the towns people he learns that Ethan had to stay in Starkfield to take care of his father, then mother, then wife, but he believed there was another more complex explanation. After this, he talked to Ethan and went to the place where it all went down so he could examine the situation first-hand.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *