February 10 2017

The village lay under two feet of snow….

In the spirit of our class discussion today, I am not providing you with a specific topic to discuss.  Instead, ,please pursue your own ideas and theories about the beginning and Chapters 1 and 2 of Ethan Frome here.  Be sure to include many specific text-based details in your commentary.  Be sure also to reply to your classmates as the discussion evolves over the course of the evening.

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 conversations.

Ethan Frome blog #3


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Posted February 10, 2017 by equinson in category Ethan Frome

38 thoughts on “The village lay under two feet of snow….

  1. tarika1

    Something I found interesting was the gravestone that Ethan Frome encounters on his way home. The gravestone said, “Sacred to the memory of Ethan Frome and Endurance his wife. Who dwelled together in peace for fifty years.” This gravestone is very ironic because Ethan Frome is not happy with his marriage. He is attracted to Mattie, his wife Zeena’s cousin. But the other Ethan Frome had a happy marriage with his wife endurance until death. When seeing this gravestone, Ethan wonders if his marriage will be the same. Whenever Ethan is not with Mattie, he thinks a about her. So the gravestone could be representing how his marriage could have been different, and how he could have been happy with Zeena until death.

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  2. caias1

    Something in the text that I found interesting was on page 51, when Ethan asks Mattie if there were any visitors, and she says, “‘Yes, one,’ and he felt a blackness settling onto his brows. ‘Who was that?'” Why is he so overprotective of Mattie? It sometimes looks as if he is her owner instead of a friend and employer. Ethan may be attracted to her, but his obsessiveness is a little bit over the top. Ethan often claims her as his, but he already has Zeena. If he likes Mattie so much, than he should not have married Zeena.

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  3. charlottes

    Many parts of the first two chapters of “Ethan Frome” interested me. One part that I found particularly interesting was on page 36. Ethan is hauling wood the morning after the dance. Ethan didn’t have his mind set on hauling the wood though. He thought about how hge and Zeena hadn’t said a word to each other since she caught him with Mattie. This thought quickly leaves his mind and he moves onto second guessing himself. He wonders why he didn’t kiss Mattie when they were alone walking back to the house. The author states, “Why had he not kissed her when he held her there?” (page 36) When i read this, it struck me as odd, confusing and interesting. It was surprising how fast the thought of his angry wife left his mind. It is like her anger at him comes second to his secret love for Mattie. He doesn’t know how long Zeena will be mad at him or what she’s going to do, but he thinks about Mattie and his romance instead. The story of “Ethan Frome” interests me very much.

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    1. maddy

      I felt similarly when I read page 36. Ethan prioritized his feelings for Mattie over the actions and emotions of his wife. I feel that this showed quite a bit about Ethan’s character as well as foreshadowed proceeding occurrences involving his complex relationships with Mattie and Zeena.

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  4. maddy

    Friday’s class discussion and rereading “Ethan Frome” induced me to notice how the prologue, Chapter I, and Chapter II correlate in depicting Ethan as a societal outcast. The novella is begun by the narrator describing Ethan as “…the most striking figure in Starkfield”. (page 3) Following this introduction, readers became increasingly knowledgeable of Ethan’s tragic backstory. We learned how he spent the predominance of his life tending to his ill wife and late parents prior to an incapacitating sledding “smash-up”. Ethan lived a very different, disheartening life from those of the townspeople, which supports the thesis that as a result, he is a disparate person.

    I found Ethan’s actions during the church sociable symbolic of his being a societal outcast. Rather than entering the church, Ethan remained outside. He watched from afar as others, Mattie in particular, enjoyed themselves while he chose to be alone in the dark and quiet night. When Mattie exited the sociable, “A wave of shyness pulled him back into the dark angle of the wall, and he stood there in silence instead of making his presence known to her.” (page 26) These actions of Ethan’s exemplifies how isolation is embedded in his nature, his lifestyle. On page 43, Edith wrote, “At Worcester,… he had the name of keeping to himself and not being much of a hand at a good time…” I feel as if this excerpt captures the essence of the way Ethan acted at the church sociable, and how he acts in general.

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  5. ilyssal

    I was intrigued by how in the beginning of the novella “Ethan Frome”, the main character, Ethan comes across a gravestone marked in his name in a graveyard nearby. On the headstone it appears to have the name Ethan Frome on it as well as a phrase referring to his enduring love to his wife. This fascinated me because Ethan is currently suffering through a relationship with his wife Zeena. He does not love Zeena, he had lust for her at a time. Lust occurs when love isn’t true and is based on the materialistic and physical things rather than devotion and love. The graveyard represented to me the life of Ethan in a place where death is memorialized. Ethan is barely living although he is alive because he does not enjoy his relationship and wishes to be with Mattie.

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    1. avae1

      I also viewed the graveyard as a place where Ethan assessed his marriage to Zeena, and assured himself that he was unsatisfied with their relationship.

      Reply
  6. cameronl3

    “Against the dark background of the kitchen she stood up tall and angular, one hand drawing a quilted counterpane to her flat breast, while the other held a lamp. The light… drew out of the darkness her puckered throat and the projecting wrist of the hand that clutched the quilt, and deepened fantastically the hollows and prominences of her high-boned face under its rings of crimping-pins.”

    This quotation, from the end of Chapter Two, is the strongest physical description that we have of Zeena Frome, and it is not a flattering one. The phrases combine to support a picture of Ethan’s wife as unfeminine, dried-up, overly thin, and generally unappealing. Female beauty is traditionally associated with curves and images of fertility, yet Zeena is all hard angles and protruding bones, with her flat breast and tall figure, she seems stripped of all sexuality. Moreover, she appears very old. Her aged features bespeak her inner weariness as well as her demand for respect and her lack of playfulness. Her unattractiveness and premature agedness contribute to the novel’s sharp opposition between Zeena and Mattie. Zeena Frome is cold and unappealing, a woman prone to long silences, who is always described as speaking in a “flat whine,” while Mattie Silver is a picture of youthful vigor and beauty, with a sparkling personality and name to match. In the contest for Ethan’s devotions, all that Zeena has on her side is convention and her husband’s inertia. Ultimately, however, these prove enough to prevent Ethan from fulfilling his dreams and passions.
    The language of this passage evokes not only ugliness and agedness, but also sickness and death. Zeena’s thinness may result in part from her chronic illness. Moreover, when the narrative draws attention to the “fantastically” exaggerated “hollows and prominences” in her face, its “ring of crimping-pins,” it is evoking more than mere ugliness: it conjures the picture of a skull, with its gaping eye sockets and its streamlined silhouette of a head. Thus, not only does Zeena represent coldness in opposition to robust sexuality and fertility, here she is the picture of death itself, in opposition to life in general. With her, the description implies, day to day existence is nothing more than a living death.

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  7. Toa Neil

    Maybe this whole thing is just a hallucination of a man driven mad by his wife and Mattie is an imaginary friend and coping mechanism.

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    1. alexo

      I would respectfully disagree with this, because by your logic Ethan Frome would be in a hallucination, and the narrator himself said what he saw and what he had been told.

      Reply
  8. alexo

    Looking over chapters 1 and 2, I noticed how there wasn’t anything truly special about Mattie to Ethan. she was kind, and tried to learn, but she was not a good maid, and bore no real similarities to Ethan. I wondered why Ethan loved her if there nothing for Ethan to like, and I believe that part of the reason Ethan loved her was because of Zeena. he was so tired of Zeena, that he wanted to escape from her. I remember talking about this in class. Someone talked about how Ethan might not have wanted to escape to be with Mattie, but to be away from Zeena, and use Mattie as an excuse.

    I still do believe that Ethan loves Mattie, but I think that part of that love came from the lust of freedom from the farm, from zeena, from the old.

    Reply
    1. alexo

      For our discussion questions, I would like to ask these two:

      I’ve already answered this question myself in my blog, but I’d like to know what the class has to say about it as well. Why did Ethan want to run away? For Mattie, or because of Zeena?

      I would also like to ask why Ethan wants to take such huge steps in the first place. yes, life on the farm is bad, but there he has a job that he could live off of for the rest of his life. Does he really want to risk all that for a new life?

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  9. avae1

    While reviewing chapters one and two of “Ethan Frome”, I noticed how Ethan ties his relationships with Zeena and Mattie to darkness and warmth. On multiple occasions Ethan has described Zeena as cold, with pointed features, and no brightness to her face whatsoever. Although, when describing his secret lover, Mattie, he uses shades of red, and inviting candlelight to express his alluring image of her. Mattie is often pictured wearing a red scarf around her neck, with rosy cheeks and lips. “Mattie came forward, unwinding her wraps, the colour of the cherry scarf in her fresh lips and cheeks.”(p.34) He depicts her as attractive and comforting, contrary to his image of his wife, Zeena. On this same evening, she notifies Ethan that the fire has gone out, however he ignores her and makes no response. Later, while entering their bedroom he states, “‘That’s so. It is powerful cold down here,’ Ethan assented; and with lowered head he went up in his wife’s wake, and followed her across the threshold of their room.”(p.35) It seems that when Ethan is around Zeena, his own surroundings and emotions go cold, just as his love for her has.

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    1. francescaa

      I agree. The author adds these details very discreetly, so on the first read I didn’t even notice the contrast between warmth and cold. When he talks to Zeena he does, in fact, seem to have less emotion in compare to when he talks to Mattie.

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  10. faithw

    The novella is told from Ethan Frome’s perspective. In the first chapter, Ethan was lustfully watching Mattie dance in the church. Ethan imagined a happy life where he could leave his wife, Zeena, and run away with Mattie. However, Ethan has to return from his fantasy to a life with his sick wife, which is a life he views as being miserable. Zeena, who is only 35, is described as an old woman with false teeth, wrinkles, and a bony complexion. “The light… drew out of the darkness her puckered throat and the projecting wrist of the hand that clutched the quilt, and deepened fantastically the hollows and prominences of her high-boned face under its rings of crimping-pins” (p.34). Ethan painted a picture for the reader to visualize an unsightly woman to support his view of a depressing life.

    In his mind, he saw nothing wrong with fantasizing about Mattie and contemplating committing adultery. Although in these early stages of the novella Ethan only imagined having an affair with Mattie, we know that later on he gives in to his lust and disregards the vows he made to his wife. In my opinion, these actions make Ethan uglier than Ethan’s opinion of Zeena’s external appearance. Ironically, Ethan was describing his wife’s outer appearance as unattractive, but Ethan failed to appreciate the true hideousness of the story, which was the damage caused by the infidelity to his soul.

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  11. briannag3

    When I reviewed the first few chapters I was wondering all throughout, why does Ethan Frome instantly fall in love with Mattie? At first I questioned whether it was love or lust, but it must be love because he was willing to kill himself just to be with her. However, Mattie is a terrible maid and her and Ethan aren’t similar whatsoever. A theory could be that Ethan just wants a little escape from his life. He no longer loves his wife Zeena so he wants more excitement in his life and Mattie is the perfect way to get it.Despite wanting to leave Ethan feels obligated to continue to work on the farm, after all he can’t just leave it. When Ethan’s mom got sick Zeena came to assist her and he fell in love with Zeena until she also got sick. The same thing is happening here with Mattie. She might not be a good maid but she makes him happy and he loves to be around her.

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    1. christophert3

      I agree, but I must bring up how when he was thinking of leaving how a reason he didn’t want to leave was because Zeena, in her condition, wouldn’t be able to make a living off the farm as well as get a good amount of money from the selling of the mill. This shows that Ethan cares more for Zeena then he lets on or even thinks himself.

      Reply
  12. arihantp1

    I found it interesting how eager Zeena was to get rid of Mattie and hire a new girl. Zeena knows the financial trouble Ethan is going through so why does she want to get a hired girl to work around the house, when they have one for free? Zeena most likely knows Ethan’s lust for Mattie, and is trying to prevent Ethan from leaving her. “‘And the doctor don’t want I should be left without anybody,’ Zeena continued. ‘He wanted I should speak to you about a girl he’s heard about, that might come…'” (pg.24). Zeena desperately wants Mattie to go, and this could be because she knows that Ethan is attracted to Mattie, and that she doesn’t want him to go.

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  13. francescaa

    There were many small details that were intriguing in pages 62-90. One quote that sparked my interest was in chapter seven. Zeena had just came home from her doctor’s visit and Ethan went up to go see her. “Well Zeena,’ he ventured from the threshold.” Although small I believe that this quote has some meaning to it. In life a threshold is a strip of wood, metal, or stone forming the bottom of a doorway and crossed in entering a house or room, or a intensity that must be exceeded for a certain result. However what if this “threshold” means more? In my mind, the “threshold” symbolizes the relationship Zeena and Ethan have. Zeena is the queen of the house. Everything revolves around her. When said “ Well Zeena” he was breaking the chains of what Zeena wants him or expects him to do. Yes, Mattie and Ethan have to pretend as if they actually feel sympathy for Zeena but Ethan was being quite frank with her. Zeena was not expecting that kind of answer from her husband, especially when she came back from visiting a doctor and is supposedly “very ill”. Another interesting quote was found on page 62, “But their evening together had given him a vision of what life at her side might be….”. This quote could be interpreted in a variety of different ways which is why I found it so fascinating. Was the author describing Mattie’s life the way it is now or the way it could be in the future? I think that this is the part where Ethan truly decided he really wants to spend the rest of his life with Mattie. Just being in her presence made him happy and cheerful, as opposed to sad and gloomy when he was with Zeena. As we read the book for a second time I wonder if we will catch any symbols that relate to the previous two book we have read.

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  14. sofiad1

    While reviewing Ethan Frome, I’ve noticed that there is lots of tension between Ethan and Mattie when Zeena is mentioned. This makes it seem as if they both feel Zenna is in the way of their happiness. I also noticed that Zeena and Ethan have been married for 7 years. This calls into question again what the sevens could possibly mean. Additionally, I noticed that Ethan think if his mother had died in the spring, he probably wouldn’t have married Zeena. From this, I think that he, in fact, regrets marrying Zeena since he met Mattie. It is very obvious that Mattie and Ethan are meant to be together.

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  15. margauxc

    Ethan Frome is depicted as a spirited character who endures detrimental dynamics in Edith Wharton’s novella. At first, according to the narrator’s account, Frome resists numerous winds of change which attempt to snuff out his flame. His parents, his education, and his marriage to Zenobia are all factors which threaten to overwhelm Ethan- all of which keep him bound to Starkfield.
    On page six of the prologue, the narrator comments, “I began to understand why Starkfield emerged from its six month siege like a starved garrison capitulating without quarter.” This quote emphasizes that Ethan’s resistance against his environment is one of inevitable defeat for Ethan. The “starved garrison capitulating without quarter” stresses Zenobia’s lack of sympathy towards Ethan- seeing as, metaphorically speaking, Zenobia is the opposition to Ethan’s “garrison”. When Wharton includes “starved” as an adjective to describe the garrison (the word garrison possibly representing Ethan himself) it can be interpreted as Ethan being starved for compassion, which explains why he notices Mattie- the only character who seems to show Ethan compassion.
    After further analysis, the narrator’s statement correlates, in a certain perspective, with the color red. Red can possibly be symbolic of the casualties between Ethan and his resistance towards Starkfield. Red is often visualized as blood red- which relates back to the concept of Mattie getting hurt (her spinal injury and cynical attitude) as a result of Ethan’s external and internal conflicts. (On the other hand, red can also symbolize broken trust- seeing as the red glass pickle-dish broke after Mattie and Ethan “betrayed” Zenobia. Yet, juxtaposing the color red with battle casualties is more symbolic than comparing it to the concept of broken trust, seeing as injuries/casualties tie into the narrator’s statement on page six.)

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  16. laurena2

    In chapter 1 of Ethan Frome, I found it interesting how Ethan watched and admired Mattie as she danced. Like we discussed in class, Mattie’s cherry-colored scarf sticks out in the dark town of Starkfield. The only thing that stood out to Ethan was Mattie. She was the center of attention. Nobody, not even his wife could catch that kind of attention from Ethan. As Mattie danced “Frome’s heart was beating fast” (pp.19) Frome intricately studied Mattie, noticing every elegant detail. With Frome’s details, the narrator creates a description using imagery. Mattie is described with “laughing panting lips, the cloud of dark hair about her forehead, and the dark eyes which seemed the only fixed points in a maze of flying lines.” (pp.19) What I found most interesting about Frome’s description was that he noticed her dark eyes. In an already dark town, one of the most important details he described was her eyes. This shows that Frome was so focused on Mattie that he even noticed the most basic and unnoticeable details. This detail allows Frome’s love for Mattie to shine through her dark colored eyes.

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  17. ivanl

    Something I found interesting was the tombstone. Engraved on the tombstone, it says that Ethan Frome lived with his life happily for 50 years. This is very ironic because he is unhappy in his current marriage with Zeena and has considered divorce so that he can be with Mattie. I found the gravestone very ironic, considering that Ethan would rather die and be with Mattie instead of staying in his unhappy marriage with Zeena. Why would Wharton put something so contradictory right in front of the reader? I think this is perhaps to emphasize that Ethan is more than just unhappy in his relationship with Zeena and only married her so he wouldn’t be lonely on the farm.

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  18. George

    I thought that it was interesting how a huge part of this book is observation. We can see that at the beginning of the book when we see the narrator observing Ethan from afar. In chapter two we see Ethan observing mattie from afar to test he loyalty towards him. He wanted to see if she would wait for him or go with someone else.
    I would also like to explore this quote “I don’t see’s there’s much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard; ‘cept that down there they’re all quiet, and the women have got to hold their tongues.” This quote infers that the Frome family has a very sad history. This quote may also infer that the Frome men get married young and are tied into an unhappy relationship or it could infer that Frome men get tied down and then start to lust for other women as the relationship wears on. Just like Ethan.
    I also thought it was interesting how Ethan cannot commit to a change. He always thinks up an idea and then shoots it down just as quickly as it transpired. He always second guesses himself and every time he does that he sacrifices more of his life to unhappiness.

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  19. christophert3

    I realized, after reading this section of the book that there was a difference that was confusing to me. On page 34, it said, “Against the dark background of the kitchen she stood up tall and angular, one hand drawing a quilted counterpane to her flat breast, while the other held a lamp. The light, on a level with her chin, drew out of the darkness her puckered throat and the projecting wrist of the hand that clutched the quilt, and deepened fantastically the hollows and prominences of her high-boned face under its ring of crimping-pins.” From this, you get a negative feeling for Zeena. But later in the book, on pages 50-51, Ethan goes through the same thing with Mattie. It said, “She stood just as Zeena had stood, a lifted lamp in her hand, against the black background of the kitchen. She held the light at the same level, and it drew out with the same distinctness her slim young throat and the brown wrist no bigger than a child’s. Then, striking upward, it threw a lustrous fleck on her lips, edged her eyes with velvet shade, and laid a milky whiteness above the black curve of her brows.” But the big difference was the reaction. To Ethan, the surroundings, though the same, had very different effects on the people he was looking at. For Zeena, these surroundings made Ethan feel like he had “he had never before known what his wife looked like.”(pg 34) And when he enters the house, it has the deadly chill of a vault after a cold night. But for Mattie, it makes her seem better. It says in the book, “This tribute to the unusual transformed and glorified her. She seemed to Ethan taller, fuller, more womanly in shape and motion.”(pg 51) And this time, when he enters the house, he describes the feeling as being suffocated by well-being. This difference in reactions was very surprising with such a great contrast because the two women are in the same surroundings. I guess this interpretation of Ethan’s reveals exactly how he feels about them.

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  20. marinas1

    In the first few chapters of Edith Wharton’s novella “Ethan Frome”, the first aspects of symbolism and repetition are introduced. These facets continue to play a huge role in the novella.

    One of the first symbols introduced is the color red. Edith Wharton writes, “…drew forth a girl who had already wound a cherry-coloured ‘fascinator’ about her head, and, leading her up to the end of the floor, whirled her down its length to the bounding tune of the Virginia reel.” (p.19) The girl dancing is Mattie Smith, the girl our main character, Ethan Frome, falls in love with. This color greatly juxtaposes to the blandness of Starksfield, a name of its own that causes one to think of bareness and dourness. This juxtaposition is even more greatly defined, for it is winter in the novella, and snow coats the village like a blanket. The red color of Mattie’s scarf, therefore, is no kind of coincidence. The red color is supposed to symbolize “the light in the darkness”, or, in this case, a flash of red in a field of snow. It is as if Mattie stands out of all plainess that surrounds her. That is why Ethan is so drawn to her. She is unlike anything else in the village, a bright token amidst a barren land. In addition, I find it interesting that Edith Wharton uses the word “fasicinator” in the sentence, for that is entirely too true. Ethan is simply fascinated and raptures by Mattie’s presence.

    On another note, I noticed the repetition of the words “‘I ain’t afraid!'”, which are constantly uttered by Mattie throughout the text. When Ethan appears out of the darkness at the church where Mattie is waiting, and she says that she thought he would not come for her, Ethan asks, “‘Then you meant to walk home alone?'” In response, Mattie declares, “‘Oh! I ain’t afraid!'” This term is repeated again and again. I believe that it is meant to foreshadow the future. In this context, she is saying that she is not afraid of walking on her own in the cold darkness. This correlates to how she is the one that mentions the idea of suicide to Ethan. She is clearly not afraid of venturing into the dark, after all.

    Going back to the symbolism of the color red, I noticed the repitition of the geraniums, that seem to be continuously popping up in later chapters. It is said that Ethan Frome made a garden for Mattie in the summer, where he planted geraniums. In the winter, they have had to take care of them and keep them warm so that they do not die. As you may know, geraniums are brightly-colored flowers, usually pink or red. These geraniums, in a way, are also meant to symbolize the brightness that Mattie gives off, and the warmth that radiates off of her, amidst all the snow and coldness that makes up the village of Starksfield.

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  21. willowm

    I thought it was very interesting how the author uses foreshadowing by
    establishing the setting for Ethan and Mattie’s future suicide attempt. Ethan and Mattie were making plans to go sledding sometime, and recalling a near tragedy when the couple Ned Hale and Ruth Varnum were very close to hitting the big elm at the bottom of the hill. Of course, later in the book Ethan and Mattie go sledding down the hill and aim for the big elm because they can not stand to be away from each other.

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  22. alekhya

    While reading Chapters 1 and 2, I began to think about Ethan, Zeena, and Mattie and their feelings toward one another. Based on the first couple of chapters, Mattie enjoys Ethan’s company but there doe not seem to be too much development of her feelings. As I reread the last page of chapter 2, when Zeena opens the door for Ethan and Mattie a certain sentence popped out at me. “She continued to stare at him, the flame of the unshaded lamp bringing out with microscopic cruelty the fretful lines of her face.” (35) I could not help but wonder if the worry etched on Zeena’s face is concern for Ethan. Perhaps she has hidden feelings for Ethan; something that can explain why Mattie’s presence with her husband bothers her so much.

    As for Ethan’s feelings I began to think about how he feels about Mattie. Can the passion he feels for her be defined as true love? Or is it merely infatuation? “Then he learned that one other spirit had trembled with the same touch of wonder: that at his side, living under his roof and eating his bread, was a creature to whom he could say:”That’s the Orion down yonder; the big fellow to the right is Aldebaran, and the bunch of little ones-like bees swarming-they’re the Pleiades….””(22) Based upon this detail and another in chapter 2, I have a theory that Mattie is Ethan’s safe haven; whom he can go to escape the burden of Zeena and his work to relive his old life. Mattie gives him a sense of freedom and ease that Zeena takes away from him. “It had been one of the the wonders of their intercourse that from the first, she, the quicker, finer, more expressive, instead of crushing on him the contrast, had given him a sense of ease and freedom:…”(26) Is this why Ethan is attached to her? An escape from his life for a sense of freedom? Does this qualify as true love?

    But just before I end my analysis, I must share my opinion about one portion of chapter 2. “A dead cucumber-vine dangled from the porch like the crape streamer tied to the door for a death, and the thought flashed through Ethan’s brain: “If it was there for Zeena-” Then he had a distinct sight of his wife lying in their bedroom asleep, her mouth slightly open, her false teeth in a tumbler by the bed…” (33) It is one thing for Ethan to pine after another woman who is not his wife, but it is another to imagine his wife dead. When I reread this sentence it gave me chills. It really altered my view of Ethan. What kind of a person is he?

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  23. Esha Pandya

    In her novella Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton incorporates many themes that overlap throughout the story. A major theme that can be picked up from the beginning is betrayal. In the village, Ethan sees Mattie Silver, his wife’s cousin, and is drawn to her. On their way home, Ethan notices little gestures made by Mattie that seem to charm him. He enjoyed these gestures, although he was not supposed to. “The sight made him unhappy , and his unhappiness roused his latent fears.” (page 23) Ethan realized that he shouldn’t be attracted to Mattie, and became upset by the fact that he was being controlled by Zeena’s feelings. Should his wife find out about how much he is attracted to Mattie, she would feel betrayed. Zeena had married Ethan out of love and companionship, and by being with Mattie, Ethan was betraying their marriage. In addition, he would not only be betraying Zeena’s love, but her trust as well. She trusts Ethan to go to the village, and bring Mattie back, without any trouble.

    However, even though Ethan had kept his feelings hidden, Zeena had begun to suspect something. To confirm what she thought, she hid the key, preventing Ethan and Mattie from coming inside. “…but both of them knew that it was not like Zeena to forget.” (page 33) If Ethan continued to have feelings for Mattie, he would be ignored by his wife, just as they were locked out. This shows to be one of the first signs that the marriage of Ethan and Zeena was falling apart.

    The most important part of the scene is the key. In this situation, the key symbolizes trust. When Zeena left the key out for Ethan, she gave him her trust. She knew that he would go to the village, get Maddie, and bring her back without any confusion. Ethan always came back for Zeena. But, as his feelings grew, it became noticeable to Zeena. She “forgot” to leave the key out, in suspicion of Ethan. She no longer trusted him. In order to figure out what was going on, Zeena didn’t put the key out. She didn’t trust him to come back to her, and expected him to stay with Mattie as long as possible. What she didn’t expect him to do was search for the key. As Ethan looks around, he shows that he still wants to be with Zeena, when things were simple. He wanted to gain her trust back by proving he could be with Mattie and not show his feelings. Therefore, betrayal and trust appear to major themes regarding the relationship between Ethan and Zeena.

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  24. Kat

    In the first few chapters I was interested in the scene where Ethan is walking with Mattie and sees the Frome families tombstones. The book mentions how Ethan was always fascinated with these tombstones. He has this connection with the graves that he feel,s “mocked his restlessness, his desire for change and freedom. “We never got away—how should you?” seemed to be written on every headstone; and whenever he went in or out of his gate he thought with a shiver: “I shall just go on living here till I join them.” But now all desire for change had vanished, and the sight of the little enclosure gave him a warm sense of continuance and stability.” I found this part interesting, because in the story Ethan is “trapped” in Starkfeild. He never became an engineer because his mother was sick. He never moved away because Zeena was sick. He never ran away with Mattie because Zeena held him back. He couldn’t even kill himself to escape Starkfeild. Right as he is walking past the graves he is with Mattie. At this point in the book Ethan cannot get Mattie out of his mind. He seems to love her. When he walks past the graves he has a strange thought, ““We’ll always go on living here together, and some day she’ll lie there beside me.” Strangely enough this thought is not about Zeena. Ethan imagines himself in Starkfield still, but with Mattie. Ethan does not wish to be buried next to his current wife. Later on in the book Ethan is once again walking by the graves and picks out a particular grave. This one bears his name it says, “SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF ETHAN FROME AND ENDURANCE HIS WIFE, WHO DWELLED TOGETHER IN PEACE FOR FIFTY YEARS.” Ethan says that he always liked this one when he is little. When he was little he probably saw it as his grave. This would be a happy thing to look forward too as a little kid. Now Ethan probably has mixed emotions. He seems to love Zeena but also loves Mattie. Ethan also may hold resentment towards Zeena. When Zeena got sick this made Ethan’s life much harder. He couldn’t leave Starkfeild, he had to pay costly bills, and he had to listen to Zeena’s complaints. At the very end of the novel the last line is, ” Only he wasn’t with me that morning when she first came to… And I say, if she’d ha’ died, Ethan might ha’ lived; and the way they are now, I don’t see’s there’s much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard; ‘cept that down there they’re all quiet, and the women have got to hold their tongues.” I found this line almost chilling. It is a very powerful statement. The narrator is saying that in the end Ethan is no longer truly living. He has had his body destroyed by an accident but also his mind and his soul as well. I feel that there is even more meaning that can be found in this statement.

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  25. adam

    There are many interesting events and aspects of chapters 1 and 2 in the novella Ethan Frome. However, the occurrence that jumped out at me was that grave, the tombstone. This tombstone showed how Ethan had died and been happily married with his wife for 50 years. From what we know, this does not make much sense. How can he be seeing himself dead, nevertheless married for 50 years? He currently is in a very unhappy marriage, and is not close to 50 years of marriage. Although this is a bit far fetched, I find it POSSIBLE that this really is Ethan Frome in the future, narrating himself. The narrator focuses deeply on only Ethan. Maybe, he was married 50 years (via the grave) because he left Zeena. His future life is watching his old and watching what he should have and could do differently in the future. The only other way this grave would make somewhat sense, is if he was named after somebody, who was almost polar opposite of him. Currently he is in an unhappy marriage and contemplate suicide, while on the grave he lived a happy marriage and long life. This would still leave some room for the idea of the past or future Frome looking at himself.

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  26. Rebecca F

    I was interested in how Ethan shaved for Mattie. Zeena noticed this and comments on it as well. She says that he shaes every morning now that Mattie lived with them. While there are many reasons that Ethan may be shaving, I feel as though it is he wants to seem younger for Mattie.

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