The main antagonist in the novel Ethan Frome is Zeena Frome. Zeena is Ethan’s wife. Constantly throughout the story she brings Ethan much hardship such as draining his money by forcing him to pay for medications and care. She is also the source of Ethan’s loneliness. And above all she prevents Ethan and Mattie from being together. Mattie is Zeena’s cousin who is helping to do house work in the place of Zeena while she is sick. Frequently Zeena is in confrontation with Ethan’s personal interest.
Zeena’s sickness causes a great pain to Ethan. Ethan’s farm is unprofitable but, Zeena forces Ethan to shell out money for medication and medical care. It is made clear throughout the story that Zeena’s sickness is fraudulent. This becomes obvious because many of the medications that Zeena buys, she never uses or only uses for a little while. It is also apparent that Ethane is not oblivious to the fact that Zeena is faking. This suggests that Ethan only complies with Zeena to avoid conflict and this goes to highlight Ethan’s inability to handle Zeena or stand up for himself. This weakness is a great adversity that Ethan fails to conquer throughout the novel.
Ethan’s loneliness is a constant theme throughout the novel and the main source of his problem is Zeena’s self-isolation. After the death of Ethan’s mother, he married Zeena. Ethan did not want to be alone for the winter and Zeena was his only way out. Shortly after their marriage Zeena would fall into isolation in her bedroom from her sickness. Zeena would barely talk to Ethan while she has isolated herself. Zeena would stay like this for years condemning Ethan to a lonely life with no one to speak with.
Zeena’s worst vice is her habit of coming between Ethan and Mattie. Ethan desperately wants a relationship with Mattie because she has broken his spell of loneliness and despair. Zeena is always there to keep the two from bonding or to keep Ethan from showing any affection. Even...