Ethan Frome Term Paper

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A Stark Winter

Submitted to: Ms. Heather Bonczek

Submitted by: Richard Grady

Class: B Period American Literature

Date: February 18, 2011
A Stark Winter

Thesis: The setting of Ethan Frome creates a hopeless, fatalistic feeling, as if Ethan’s life is doomed from the start. When one also takes into consideration his past life and the way actions work against Ethan, it becomes clear that Edith Wharton believes Ethan’s tragedy is due mostly to fate rather than the choices he makes. I.The setting and how it hinders Ethan Frome’s early life A: Early foreshadowing of a bad ending

B. How unexpected events force Ethan to stay in Starkfield C. Any further hopes of leaving with Mattie get crushed majorly by Zeena 1. Mattie and weather
2. Zeena and weather
II.The role setting plays in the lives of the characters in the main story A. Painfully bland life in Starkfield forces the characters to try to improve their lives.
B. Ethan’s desire to escape manifests in his relationship with Mattie
1. Contemplating straying away from Zeena
III.The effects of setting on Ethan Frome towards the end
A. Ethan’s desperation to escape from his life
B. Setting of the ending scenes
1. Effect on Ethan
Conclusion: The setting of Ethan Frome conveys the idea that Ethan is doomed from the start, from the winters in Starkfield to sledding down the slope with Mattie. Ever since the time of Ethan’s early life to into his fifties towards the end, it was made clear that Ethan’s tragic story was due to fate rather than his choices.

A Stark Winter

The setting of Ethan Frome creates a hopeless, fatalistic feeling, as if Ethan’s life is doomed from the start. When one also takes into consideration his past life and the way actions work against Ethan, it becomes clear that Edith Wharton believes Ethan’s tragedy is due mostly to fate rather than the choices he makes. In the story Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, the setting of the story hinders Ethan Frome’s early life heavily. Set in the rural town of Starkfield, Massachusetts during the 1890s, the setting of Ethan Frome serves as both a symbol for bland, boring life and a foreshadowing of the later plot in the story. The town name ”Starkfield” suggests blandness and monotonousness because stark literally means bare, desolate, and bland. The setting acts as the main factor that causes Ethan’s troubles and for actions to work against him, which begins with his early life. It is prevalent ever since the prologue of the novel that the setting foreshadows a bad ending. The novel states “Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away”(Wharton 2). This suggests that the “stark”, bland setting foreshadows a bad ending because the quote is in the prologue and takes place after the story. During the early life of Ethan Frome, the young Ethan studies science at a technological school in the city, away from his parents’ rural farm in Starkfield. Life then seems to be happier for Ethan. However, he must return to the isolated farm in order to care for his aging parents. One character points out that nobody can take care of them, except for Ethan. Ethan tries to tend to the farm for his parents, but the farm does not produce a successful crop. In addition, his father has given out much money to people, thus leaving his family with very little money to survive. Once his father dies, Ethan then cares for his aging, rheumatic mother until her death. His life at this point now gets “neatly hemmed in by circumstances” (Nevius 132) which Ethan has no choice, but to endure. This misfortune serves as a foreshadowing of a long line of circumstances that ultimately trap Ethan in the miserable, barren Starkfield. Ethan now has the opportunity to leave Starkfield...
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