18 August 2012
A Pickled Symbol
In Edith Wharton’s novel entitled Ethan Frome, she uses an abundance of symbols which allow readers to better associate common themes and ideas. One symbol that sticks out when reading the novel is the pickle-dish that Zeena keeps as a prized possession from her wedding. As the story progresses, readers become aware that Ethan is not happy in his marriage with Zeena and has found a lust/love for Mattie. Once the pickle-dish is introduced, it stands for the relationship that Ethan and Zeena hold and how unlikely that it will ever fully be mended. As Ethan makes half-hearted attempts to fix the pickle-dish and Zeena becomes aware that her husband is lusting, readers are able to infer that the pickle-dish will never be what it once was.
The pickle-dish in the story represents Ethan’s marriage with Zeena because it is the one thing Zeena holds dearest to her heart. Once the dish breaks however, it reveals that Ethan is not concerned about Zeena’s feelings and that he plans to cover it by gluing it, shown when Wharton writes, “If he glues it together the next morning months might elapse before his wife noticed…”(46). The glue in the novel acts as a second symbol in correspondence with the pickle-dish because it represents the half-hearted effort by Ethan to fix his marriage with Zeena. After the breakage it is clear that Ethan has given up on saving his marriage and solely looks to find love with Mattie, which can be arguably seen as the pickle-dish glued together.
A symbol is defined as “An object, action, or event that represents something else.” In Ethan Frome, the pickle-dish and glue together represent the love that is lost between two people, and ultimately reveal the love that is found between two people. Once the dish is broken, Ethan is hit with a realization that his marriage is ending due to his loss of interest in Zeena, and makes him realize that he loves Mattie. The glue represents the...