February 16 2017

Everyone’s a critic!

Re-read and review all of the literary criticism from your handout today.  (In case you have lost your copy, click here!)  Then write an analysis of your favorite critic!  Explain why you agree with or are intrigued by the author’s claim and analysis.  In addition, you MUST provide your own evidence from the text to support the claim or analysis.

As always, please follow the rules of standard written American English.

Don’t forget to respond to at least one other comment in this thread and tonight, when you do so, respond to a classmate who has chosen a different literary critic.

Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

Posted February 16, 2017 by equinson in category Ethan Frome

30 thoughts on “Everyone’s a critic!

  1. Toa Neil

    My favorite is Elizabeth Ammons. She points out the idea of fairy tale like styling in this story, especially Snow White. The seven is an interesting idea even though, I think that’s not intentional. Also that each is an archetype is , and the switch up helps the book along.

    1. faithw

      I selected the same passage to comment on. I, too, found the similarities to Snow White interesting. Something else to consider – the character of Mattie can be compared to Cinderella who was taken in by an “evil step-mother” and treated as a servant.

  2. alexo

    My favorite is Lionel Trilling. When you think about it, the suffering of the characters in Ethan Frome has no real direction or purpose. Although we can learn from this book about how we should make our own decisions, Ethan Frome as a whole isn’t written to tell a story. There’s no happy ending, no big lesson, none of that kind of stuff. Only a sad ending without purpose. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but I believe it to be true.

    I tried to find support for this claim, but I believe that the best way to support this idea is the lack of evidence of the contrary, lack of one final lesson to be learned from Ethan Frome. As Trilling said,

    “In the context of morality, there is nothing to say about Ethan Frome. It presents no moral issue at all.”

  3. charlottes

    My favorite critic out of all of these amazing authors is Barbara White. I agree with all her ideas. The fact that it was winter did delay Ethan from doing important things. Yes, I do think Ethan could have tried a little harder to get these things done, but her points are valid and reasonable. She states, “The snow becomes an agent in Ethan’s unfolding story: it delays him in getting the glue for the broken pickle dish and leads inexorably to the sledding accident.” This particular quote shows how the snowy environment was a contributing factor to Ethan’s choices. Also, I like how she included this quote: “Just as Ethan’s maimed body is paralleled in his house, his emotions are mirrored in the frozen landscape.” This quote was very intriguing and I found it easy to understand and think about. It is saying like how Ethan is almost trapped in his house because of the snow, his emotions are almost “frozen” inside as well. I thought it was really interesting how she related the concept of the winter setting and the concept of Ethan’s feelings and emotions together. Barbara White did a fantastic job at critiquing “Ethan Frome.”

  4. tarika1

    My favorite critic was Lionel Trilling. He reread the book and expected to be amazed by the story but he realized that the book was a “dead book” and “It presents no moral issue at all.” Although I somewhat enjoyed the book, I agree with him. In “Ethan Frome”, the author tries to present a major moral dilemma; to leave your wife that you married for the wrong reason of to not be lonely, or to spend your life with your wife that you no longer love, and have to endure her sickness by taking care of her, and give her money that you don’t have for her medicine. In the real world, people can end relationships if they wanted to without considering suicide to end it.

  5. arihantp1

    My favorite critic is Elizabeth Ammons. The idea of “Ethan From” being a fairy tale with a tragic ending intrigued me. She compares “Ethan Frome” to the fairy tale “Snow White.” She finds multiple aspects of “Ethan Frome” that are surprisingly similar to “Snow White.” “Specifically, a network of imagery and event in Ethan Frome calls up the fairy tale Snow-White. The frozen landscape, the emphasis on sevens, the physical appearance of Mattie Silver (black hair, red cheeks, white skin), her persecutions by witchlike Zeena (an older woman who takes the girl in when her mother dies and thus serves as stepmother to her).” However despite how intriguing this idea is, I do not agree when Elizabeth Ammons says that the witch, Zeena, won in the end. In what way did Zeena win? Throughout the entire novella she tries to get rid of Mattie, but in the end she ends up having to tale care of both Mattie and Ethan, despite her “shooting pains.” One could argue that Zeena won in having Ethan stay, but what joy could she get from seeing Ethan suffer, longing to be a freeman once more. Overall I found Elizabeth Ammons analysis to “Ethan Frome,” very thought provoking.

    1. avae1

      I also did not agree with Ammons’ opinion that Zeena was the “winner,” because in the end I thought they all lost, each alone in their own way.

  6. briannag3

    Elizabeth Ammons is my favorite critic out of all of them. I love her analysis of the text, comparing it to Snow White. I never even noticed the relation but when I read her article I wondered why I hadn’t. She compares Mattie to Snow White in the way she looks and mentions the importance of sevens.

  7. caias1

    My favorite author was Cynthia Griffin Wolff. Her blatant honesty about her Ethan Frome intrigued me, because she was the only critic to bring up the point about how, “We are not permitted to believe that the narrator is recounting a history of something that actually happened…” No other critic seemed to notice what she did, that the narrator is only recounting what he believes happened. Wolff states that, “No: the ‘story’ of Ethan Frome is nothing more than a dream vision, a brief glimpse into the most appalling recesses of the narrator’s mind.” Wolff is saying that the narrator may have just made up Frome, or saw him and just made up a backstory.

  8. George

    My personal favorite critic was Elizabeth Ammons. This is because of her new way of looking at the book. The compared it to Snow White. I also like her because she said that in Ethan Frome the witch wins. This is true in real life as well the good people dont always win. The best intentions doesnt always shine through.

  9. sofiad1

    My favorite critic is Blake Nevius. He is my favorite critic because he shows just how much Ethan’ss sense of responsibility gets in the way of his happiness. He says, “Mattie… offers a way out which he is quick to follow. But immediately his plans are set afoot, things begin to close in on him again…it is Ethan’s own sense of responsibility.” This shows perfectly how Ethan was aways putting Zeena’s needs in front of his own happiness. In the novel, this is illustrated when it is stated that, “With the sudden perception of the point to which his madness had carried him, the madness fell and he saw his life before him as it was. He was a poor man, the husband of a sickly woman, whom his desertion would leave alone and destitute; and even if he had had the heart to desert her he could have done so only by deceiving two kindly people who had pitied him…” This shows how Ethan was ignoring his happiness in order to take care of the wife he didn’t love because it was his duty, and Blake expresses this greatly in his analysis.

  10. Tyler Newby

    I agree with Elizabeth Ammons the most.  She describes the novella “Ethan Frome” as almost the opposite of a fairy tale, where Zeena is the witch, Mattie is the princess and Ethan is, in a way, the Prince Charming.  The reason it is an anti-fairy tale is because it does not end happily ever after.  Zeena, the witch, wins in the end, unlike any fairy tale where the bad guy always fails.  Zeena tries her hardest to get rid of Mattie, the young and beautiful princess, and get her out of the house.  In the end, Zeena does not get rid off Mattie, but she nearly manages to get Ethan and Mattie killed, which adds to the horror of the story, just as Ammons said; “Although Wharton is not imitating this well known fairy tale – rather, she draws on familiar elements of Snow-White as touchstones for a new original fairy tale – still, for many readers, without their even realizing it, the implicit contrast between Zeena’s victory in Ethan Frome and the stepmother’s defeat in Snow-White no doubt contributes to the terror of Wharton’s story.”  I see the story of Ethan Frome as more of a horror story than a romance.

    1. christophert3

      I agree. The connection made by Ammons about Ethan Frome’s story kind of being like the story of Snow White was very intriguing and I also liked the idea because if you look carefully, you can see what Ammons means by the comparison. I also liked how she brought up the fact that Zeena, the witch, wins in the end, although I’m not sure any of them really won. Zeena now has to care for Mattie. Mattie didn’t die with Ethan but instead is now paralyed. And Ethan still has to make a living, which is a lot harder since he is paralyzed on one section of his body.

  11. ilyssal

    Out of all the critics we read in class today, I have to say my personal favorite was Barbara White. I found it very interesting how she took the overall idea of Ethan Frome and directly related itnto the frozen winter setting in New England. I agree with her claims and I believe that the snowy landscape truly completed this novella. If this situation did not occur during the wintertime, there would be no story because much of it is dependent on the icy weather in New England during the winter months.The snow creates a mood to the storyline that just makes you want to be warm again. Edith Wharton is able to surround her readers in a cold place that they feel they are in while reading. White includes points as well inferring that Ethan and his feelings were almost as frozen like the weather outside his window.

  12. francescaa

    If there was one criticism I agreed with the most it would be Dr. Barbara White’s comment. Her main point was that Edith Wharton usage of snow wasn’t just for decoration. She proceeded to explain that “it (the snow) delays him in getting the glue for the broken pickle dish and leads inexorably to the sledding accident.” As I evaluated this claim more and more, I became clear to me that in fact she was right. Looking back I have noticed that the snow was a cause for a lot of the problems in Ethan’s life. The farm wasn’t making money because it couldn’t produce anything since it was covered in snow. When Zeena requested a new “girl” because she was supposedly “very ill,” Ethan told her that it wasnt possible because they didn’t have the funds. This caused a big argument, one that could have been prevented if Ethan was making money. Also, the snow was what prevented Ethan from getting the glue for Zeena’s beloved pickle dish. After looking at the evidence from Ethan Frome, I believe that Dr. White’s criticism makes the most sense.

  13. avae1

    Out of the variety of excerpts we read today in class, I would have to say my favorite was Barbara White’s comment on “Ethan Frome.” She pointed out that there was a true and concrete purpose for setting the story in the dreadful winter. New England in this time of year seemed separated, almost making it seem like there was no way out of the gray misery. “Wharton’s snowy settings are organized and not just decorative.” She meant for the snow and dismal location to have a direct effect on the story, which it did by causing a delay in retrieving the glue for the pickle dish, and ultimately causing the attempt at suicide.

    The few colors included were also crucial aspects to the story. There were only shades of gray and white, and an occasional pop of red from Mattie’s cheek or scarf. “The ubiquitous snow makes the New England farmhouses even more isolated, and the chain of despair seems frozen into place.” Once again, there are so few colors that the reader can almost feel stuck in the story and in the image, which forces them to look closely at those shades. White carefully noted and respected the way Edith Wharton used the winter as an essential part of “Ethan Frome.”

  14. christophert3

    Many of the ideas of the critics we read about today interested me, but the one idea which intrigued me the most was that of Dr. Cynthia Griffin Wolff. Her idea was that the entire story of Ethan Frome was just a made up story. She believed that the narrator took a few clues that he got and out of them grew a tale that could explain the history of Ethan Frome. Dr. Wolff also describes how this background created by the narrator is the worst case scenario. It is a tale that is terrible and heart wrenching. There is a piece of evidence that one could use to back up the theory that the narrator could of just come up with the story is what made it a very creative idea. On page 16, the page before we begin to learn about Ethan’s supposed history, it says, “It was that night that I found the clue to Ethan Frome, and began to put together this vision of his story.” This quote is showing that the narrator found the last clue to realize what happened that in Ethan Frome’s life that made him the way he is. But if you look carefully, you can see that he said “put together this vision of his story.” This gives you the sense that the narrator did not learn exactly what Ethan Frome’s story was, but came up with his own version of it. When we first started closely analyzing the character of the narrator in our blogs on February 8, Ms. Quinson asked the question, “Can we rely on his judgment?”, and I remember that Tyler(or at least I think it was Tyler) said that there is no reason to doubt him. But this idea of Dr. Wolff’s brings up the opposite of that. There is no reason we shouldn’t. The narrator is simply someone who is there and happens to want to know who Ethan Frome is. Why should we think that anything that he says about Ethan Frome’s past is true and not just speculation? This is why I was very intrigued by Dr. Wolff’s idea of the narrator just making up the entire story and it being a figment of his imagination.

  15. faithw

    I was intrigued by Elizabeth’s Ammons’ commentary about Ethan Frome having been designed to be read like a fairy tale. This is a concept I had not considered, but find very interesting. Having read Ammons’ position, I can see how Ethan Frome fits the basic pattern of fairy tales. The novella has the common character types found in fairy tales. We see in Ethan the simple man and hero who seeks love and happiness. Zeena is the villain or wicked witch who is out for her own best interests and who tries to destroy the hero. She is described physically as being sickly and having wrinkles, fake teeth, a bony physique, and a pale complexion. “Though she was but seven years her husband’s senior, and he was only twenty-eight, she was already an old woman.” She is also described as having an “evil energy.” Mattie is the princess or maiden who the hero wants to be with and whom the villain tries to prevent the hero from being with. In contrast to Zeena, Mattie is portrayed as pretty, happy, and healthy. However, fairy tales typically have a happy ending of marriage and love. In this novella, there is no happily ever after. The princess does not marry a handsome prince. Instead, the witch gets her way. Something else I noted that Ammons does not touch upon is the fact that fairy tales often deal with real-life societal issues. Even though the story of Ethan Frome is fictional, there are real-life conflicts in it such as infidelity, loneliness, and unfulfilled dreams.

  16. margauxc

    Marlene Springer, the author of “Ethan Frome: A Nightmare of Need”, included a particular element which greatly intrigued me- seeing as her words easily stood out against any of the other excerpts. She states, “… it is compelling for what it says about power: the power to leave; the power to dominate other people through manipulation of their weakness; the power of money; the power of will.” At first, I had immediately thought of the presence of manipulation and free will/willpower in Edith Wharton’s novella “Ethan Frome”. In a certain perspective, in Ethan’s greatest moment of desperation- Mattie had manipulated/influenced him into committing suicide. Also, in another perspective, manipulation also occurs when the narrator manipulates the fragments he has of the truth to form the story of Ethan Frome. “The power of will” is also incredibly significant in “Ethan Frome”, seeing as Ethan’s endurance is an imperative factor in his resistance against Starkfield. His endurance of Zenobia and eventually Mattie, after the “smash-up” is a clear sign of Ethan’s “power of will.” When Springer mentions that, “the novel is also extremely revealing for what it says about the entangled web the psyche can weave, imprisoning us in ways that sometimes neither love nor need can break,” she could possibly be referring to how, in “Ethan Frome”, obligation is the web which binds Ethan to Starkfield. Ethan was obliged to care for his parents and take up the family business/farm, abandoning his dream of becoming an engineer. Neither Mattie’s love or Zenobia’s need is able to free Ethan from the depressing environment of Starkfield that inevitably overcomes him. Therefore, after further analysis of the excerpt, I can definitely agree with Marlene Springer’s review of the novella.

  17. marinas1

    In my personal opinion, Marlene Springer’s analysis of “Ethan Frome” was by far the most interesting. She writes about how “Ethan Frome” is an American classic, for it deals with many topics throughout a measly 100 pages. The first idea Springer mentions is the psychological aspect of the novel. She claims, “…the novel is also extremely revealing for what it says about the entangled web the psyche can weave, imprisoning us in ways that sometimes neither love nor need can break.” This is very plausible when thinking about “Ethan Frome”. For example, when Ethan is writing his “good-bye letter” to Zeena, he stops himself and does not let himself run away with Mattie, even though that is what he truly desires to do. Edith Wharton writes, “His pen paused on the word, which brought home to him the relentless conditions of his lot. If he gave the farm and mill to Zeena what would be left him to start his own life with? Once in the West he was sure of picking up work…And what of Zeena’s fate?” (p.83) Obviously, when wanting to run away with Mattie, his mind traps him and does not let him do so, for the outcomes of the choice may be awful and drastic. Although Ethan’s love for Mattie should outweigh his plausible thinking, it does not, proving how the psyche truly controls you-and not the heart. In addition, one may argue that when Ethan’s desicion to attempt suicide with Mattie, there is no plausible thinking incorporated into his desicion. It may be true that Ethan first acts completely on impulse. However, when sledding into the elm tree, Edith Wharton writes, “But suddenly his wife’s face, with twisted monstrous lineaments, thrust itself between him and his goal…” (p.107) Even in his (expected) last moments, Ethan still thinks about Zeena, and what will become of her after he is gone. This shows that regardless of how badly he wanted to die with Matiie, his psyche still thought of the drastic and melancholy aspects of life if he were to die. Yet again, his mind traps his heart, rerouting his thinking once more.

    Marlene Springer also writes that Edith Wharton wrote “Ethan Frome” as a way for herself to “shed her old skin”. Springer declares, “It is crucial for Wharton’s growth as a person: she artistically looked emotional and intellectual sterility in the eye and rejected both in favor of divorce.” Before reading this, I had not deeply pondered this idea. Frankly, it is quite feasible. Just as Edith Wharton must have felt trapped in her marriage, Ethan Frome also feels confined in his marriage. In a way, Edith Wharton is mirroring her own life with Ethan. An even more interesting thought is how Ethan attempts suicide at the end of the novella. It makes one wonder, “Did Edith Wharton also want to commit suicide to escape her marriage?” After writing the novella, she divorced her husband 2 years later. In spite of this. It makes me think that this novella was making a statement, one that announced to the world now truly unhappy she was in her marriage.

  18. Esha Pandya

    I found Barbara White’s critique of Ethan Frome, entitled Wharton’s New England, to be the most fascinating. In her analysis, she explains the significance of the snow, not only to set the mood, but to add complexities throughout the story. “The snow becomes an agent in Ethan’s unfolding story…” White goes on to explain several scenarios in which the snow caused Ethan to face another problem. One of the examples she gives is of the day Ethan needed glue to fix the pickle dish. However, due to the snow, he was unable to go earlier. “But a wet snow, melted to sleet, had fallen in the night and turned the roads to glass.” (page 62) Unable to go to the village in time, Ethan failed to fix the pickle dish before Zeena arrived. This was all because of the snow. While I do agree with White when she says the snow plays a role in Ethan’s life, I would like to add on that if it weren’t for the snow, the story would have no purpose. Without the snow, not many problems would occur, making the story seem dull and consistent. Wharton cleverly involves the weather of Starkfield to affect Ethan’s life, while keeping it as the setting for a mood.

    Barbara White also mentions how the snow symbolizes Ethan’s feelings, and memories. “The snow is such a “smothering medium” that Ethan has buried his feelings, memories, and will.” I thought about this simple sentence, understanding what White was trying to say. From her statement, I realized that Ethan had taken everything that had failed him, or had brought more failure, and ignored it. Eventually, all of this had piled up, which White claims is shown by the amount of snow. The more Edith Wharton mentioned snow throughout the novella, the more problems Ethan had to face. I agree with Barbara White, but I think that the snow can also represent Zeena, who is a barrier for Ethan. Ethan’s wife had kept him in Starkfield for several years, making him unable to leave Starkfield. She does this more than once: during their early marriage, Ethan could not become an engineer, and when Ethan tried to leave with Mattie, her “sickness” kept him in Starkfield.

  19. Kathrynr

    Like many others I liked Elizabeth Ammons review. I think that many people liked what she said because it connects Ethan Frome to another story we all know. In my group yesterday we all wanted to analyze this review. I also believe that if we want to truly agree or (politely) disagree with Ms. Ammons then we should really remember what the fairy tale of Snow White was. I think that many people who disagree with Ms. Ammons assessment are thinking about the Disney movie. The Disney version has a happier ending then the original version. The original version is slightly different. In this version a kiss does not wake up snow white. Someone drops her coffin and the apple dislodges from her throat. Also when Snow White marries s the step-mother is forced to dance in heated iron shoes. I think that this ending is not that similar to Ethan Frome, but I really agreed with how Ms. Ammons saw Mattie as Snow White. They are seemingly really similar looking.

  20. alekhya

    The most intriguing critique in my opinion was “The Triumph of Edith Wharton” by Cynthia Griffin Wolff. Dr. Wolff in her critique explored the background of the narrator and the factual basis of the story “Ethan Frome”. In her analysis Dr. Wolff states, “We are not permitted to believe that the narrator is recounting a history of something that actually happened;”. What she is trying to say is that based on the narrator’s background knowledge, this whole novel could be nothing more than a fantasy created by a bored worker to escape the dull life of Starkfield. “the “story” of Ethan Frome is nothing more than a dream vision, a brief glimpse into the most appalling recesses of the narrator’s mind.” This story one can also say explores the narrator’s mind. Perhaps he is someone who enjoys tragic romances or is going through a situation similar to that of Ethan, Mattie, or Zeena. What Dr. Wolff is trying to say is that nothing in “Ethan Frome” might have actual happened, but was a figment of the narrator’s imagination.

  21. willowm

    I was agreed with Barbara White’s critique of the novella. She refers to the snow as a “smothering medium” causing Ethan to have “buried his feelings, memories, and perhaps his will.” The snow is what caused or allowed plot developments to unfold. It is what delayed him from getting glue and allowed the sledding accident to occur. I also liked how she related the winter setting to the story of Ethan Frome. She writes “Just as Ethan’s maimed body is paralleled in his house, his emotions are mirrored in the frozen landscape.”

  22. Rebecca F

    Of all the opinions we read today, I found myself agreeing with the opinion of Dr. Cynthia Wolff. She seems to not only dislike the book, but the author, Edith Wharton. She calls the story of Ethan Frome nothing more than, “a figment of the narrator’s imagination”. Dr. Wolff marvels at what sort of mind it must take to create a story so appalling, a sentiment I find myself agreeing with.

  23. adam

    My favorite critic was probably by Lionel Trilling. It was not the best in my opinion, or not the one I agree with most, but it was my favorite. He does not at all support all the love and admiration of this book. He believes that it is a “dead book” and a book that the brain can only endure. By this, he is saying how boring the book is and unentertaining. I like how he is being honest because it shows us that not all critics point out only positives. It shows us that even the best critics and most knowledgeable readers have their own opinions. This was regarded as a great novel by many and very entertaining. But he completely disagreed and is dismade with the novella. Although he points out no positives and states how this book has no reason behind it, I disagree with his overwhelming amount of negativity. I think this would be very entertaining to the group of adult men and women, but I was impressed with Trilling’s honesty.

  24. ivanl

    I would say my favorite critic out of all of them would be Barbara White. I agree very much with the idea that the snow was not only used as a decorative feature, but more as something that would help lead the story on. Most of the events in the story occur as a result of a consequence the snow caused. Barbara White explores these ideas, such as the snow delaying Ethan from getting the glue, and in the end, the sledding accident. The snow is just too coincidental just have been there to set the setting. Barbara also explores the use of color, which I strongly agree with. Most of the story is white, especially with the use of the snow everywhere. The little bit of color which is red, is represented by Mattie and the red pickle dish, symbolized by something lively. I think White did a amazing job analyzing the use of color in the book as well as the use of snow.

  25. maddy

    The critique of “Ethan Frome” I prefer the most is “Ethan Frome: A Nightmare of Need.” Its author, Marlene Springer, incorporated a point I had not contemplated heretofore. Springer claimed that crafting “Ethan Frome” was “…crucial for Wharton’s growth as a person…”, for she “…artistically looked emotional and intellectual sterility in the eye and rejected both in favor of divorce.” I concur with this viewpoint. During the period in which Wharton was writing “Ethan Frome”, she had been living apart from her husband due to his unstable mental health and acts of adultery. A few years later, in 1913, Wharton divorced her husband; a criticized and uncommon practice back then, particularly when committed by a woman. “Ethan Frome” was centered on an unhappy marriage and infidelity. It is probable that due to Wharton’s personal life, the novella’s focuses were not merely coincidental in accordance. I ponder if Wharton would have written “Ethan Frome” had it not been for her unhappy marriage. Additionally, I ponder if writing this novella is a way in which she coped with her marriage, indirectly expressing how she felt.

  26. laurena2

    I agree most with Ms. Elizabeth Ammons and her analysis of Ethan Frome. In her analysis, she compares Ethan Frome to Snow White. When Ms. Ammons gives the reader comparisons, the two stories come together. “The frozen landscape, the emphasis on sevens, the physical appearance of Mattie Silver (black hair, red cheeks, white skin), her persecutions by witchlike Zeena (an older woman who takes the girl in when her mother dies and thus serves as stepmother to her).” I completely agree with Ms. Ammons’ idea on how the witch (Zeena) wins in the end of Edith Frome. Although she did not get a happily ever after, her wish of keeping her husband did come true.


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