Have you ever been faced with obstacles in the pursuit of happiness? How often do morals hinder the fulfillment of desires? Can society influence decisions a person makes? The theme of the novel Ethan Frome is that a person’s morals and society’s constraint can obstruct the journey to execute one’s desires. Edith Wharton expresses the theme in her novel by revealing how the characters view the events of the encounter at the door, Ethan’s plan to elope, and the attempted suicide by Ethan and Mattie.
As an illustration, the encounter at the door upon the arrival with Zeena, Ethan, and Mattie supports the author’s objective. Zeena unusually stays awake past her typical time of sleep and claims she is too sick to sleep. She says, “I just felt so mean I couldn’t sleep (22).” Ethan’s wife has never been jealous of her cousin Mattie; however Zeena’s tone reveals a sense of suspicion in the relationship of Ethan and Mattie and offers the idea of replacing her cousin with a harder working and more efficient helper. The emotions between Ethan and Mattie flare on their walk home from the church. In fact, Ethan almost kisses Mattie at the door of his house. The fire burning between Ethan and Mattie quickly deteriorates upon the arrival of Zeena’s aggressive figure standing in the door. Ethan’s mood evolves to an uneasy and nervous state as he fumbles with his jacket while hanging it up on the wall. Against his will, Ethan, with his head lowered, follows his wife up to their bedroom. Without saying a word, the married Ethan and Zeena fall asleep.
Also, Ethan’s plan of eloping with Mattie is shot down by his morality. Ethan and Mattie’s biggest fear develops, and Zeena decides to send her cousin away and hire a new helper. In society’s eyes, it is Ethan’s duty to remain with his wife and his conscience tugs at him creating an inner struggle with his potential decision. He questions how he could make it with no money and acknowledges the fact that barrowing money is out...
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