Book Analysis: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

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Many people long to escape their own lives when faced with hardship. These people tend to lead unfulfilled, empty, cold lives. In Edith Wharton’s novella, Ethan Frome, the main character, Ethan, is trapped in Starkfield, a cold barren place and a reflection of Ethan’s own empty life. Ethan constantly tries to escape the hardships and cold landscape which holds him captive. As Ethan obsesses over the idea of escaping his own sad life, he ruins the lives of those around him, and blinds himself from the wonderful possibilities his life already holds. Every major character in Ethan Frome attempts to evade the hardships which are thrust upon them, but each character learns that hardship is not something one can escape; it is something one must embrace, for one cannot escape hardship without escaping life.

Ethan tries to escape the difficulties of his life through the women who have appeared, but rather than freeing himself, Ethan is never able to escape his own hardship. Ethan’s First attempt of escape involves his sickly mother. Before Ethan met his wife, Zeena, he felt trapped by his mother and by Starkfield’s emptiness. Ethan had hoped to become an engineer, but despite attending school, his dreams were never fulfilled, because of his mother who had grown sick after his father’s death, and Ethan was left to care for both his mother and his family’s farm. Ethan’s obligation to care for his mother materializes into a hefty, oppressive burden until, Zeena, his cousin, rescues him and substantially lifts his burden off his shoulders. Zeena’s appearance in Ethan’s life saves him, for as she appeares “human speech was heard again in the house” (Wharton, 35). Zeena’s appearance brings life into Ethan’s lonely world. When Ethan’s father died, his mother grew increasingly silent, and rarely spoke. Because of this, he lacked human reaction, and in turn, grew lonely as well. As his mother became more silent, Ethan’s world became emptier and colder. But because of Zeena,...
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