Ethan Frome Writing
Throughout the novel, Ethan Frome, written by Edith Wharton, Ethan confronts the demands of his private passion for Mattie that conflicts with his responsibility of Zenna. Ethan describes his love for Mattie: “All his life was lived in the sight and sound of Mattie” (35). His intense passion for her contributes to pathos. Mattie and Ethan have a love for one another which controls their every thought. Ethan lives to spend his time with her. Nevertheless, Ethan accepts that he has married Zenna, therefore making him responsible for her. When plotting to leave with Mattie, Ethan does the responsible thing and writes a letter to Zenna stating, “I’ve done all I could for you... [you can] keep the money” (115). Wharton uses abstract diction to demonstrate that Ethan tries to choose an option that will allow him to stay with Mattie while ensuring Zenna’s happiness and safety. Ethan plans to do the responsible thing to tell Zenna that he will leave and that she can keep the property and the money. His passion and his responsibility conflict with one another causing him to eventually decide to commit suicide with Mattie. This exhibits the theme of the novel: Passion over powers responsibility. Ethan chooses to sled down the hill “right into the big elm” with Mattie which he hopes will ultimately result in death for the star-crossed lovers (143). The “big elm” symbolizes the possibility of living with Mattie forever in death. The attempted suicide results from the conflict between Ethan’s passion for Mattie and responsibility he has for Zenna.
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