Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome: Analysis

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The novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is a tragedy of a small town farmer that falls in love with his distant cousin. The story revolves mostly around the protagonist Ethan Frome, as his life becomes a living hell. He develops into a very interesting character as he faces difficult decisions to run away with the love of his life, Mattie Silver. However, his morals and beliefs force him to do what is “right” and stay with his wife. Towards the end of the novel, he finally decides to kill himself with Mattie and end the agony of living with his obnoxious and hypochondriac wife. The ending of the novel is ironic because after all that has happened they are still living together, the only difference is that the situation has gotten even worse. Edith Wharton refers to Ethan Frome as a tragedy, and many critics agree with it. However, they still argue over whether or not Ethan Frome is responsible for his tragic fate. As readers read the novel, they realize that Ethan could not avoid his tragic fate. However, as Ethan makes crucial mistakes and the plot develops, the readers begin to feel otherwise. Ethan Frome is clearly responsible for his inevitable fate, as he develops the plot into a tragedy with his silence, his values, and his tragic flaws.

Many will say that the true tragedy in Ethan Frome is Ethan’s wretched and unchangeable life. In truth, his tragic fate could have been avoided if Ethan could just stand up for himself. The name Ethan takes its roots from the ancient Biblical name Eitan, an Israel man known for his wisdom and the name means strong, optimistic, and permanent. Yet, the Ethan the readers see in the story is the total opposite. He may appear to the readers as a tall and strong farmer that can withstand anything in life. When in fact he is no different to a dead person as he cannot stand up for himself. Throughout his life, Ethan is unable to take charge of his life and make it into a life he wants. “Somebody had to stay and take care for...
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