Ethan Frome

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Ethan Frome Essay
“There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.” - Leo Buscaglia. Ethan Frome is a book full of internal and external ‘disasters’. These disasters compel the characters to make choices. Ethan Frome’s decision to semi-pursue a relationship with Mattie was influenced by internal forces, because he is attracted to Mattie, unhappy in his marriage, and was never truly in love with Zeena.

“..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.” (21)

The completely unflattering description above is the description of Ethan’s wife Zeena. Zeena is not physically attractive to Ethan in anyway. Mattie however, standing in the same position, and same place is described as follows.

“...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. ...through her hair she had run a streak of crimson ribbon. This tribute to the unusual transformed and glorified her. She seemed to Ethan taller, fuller, more womanly in shape and motion. She stood aside, smiling silently, while he entered, and then moved away from him with something soft and flowing in her gait.” (33)

Mattie is a beautiful, young girl. Between Mattie, with her “light figure”(11), “the colour of the cherry scarf in her lips and cheeks”, (21) and Zeena with her...
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