Every Man Dies, but Not Every Man Really Lives

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 952
  • Published: October 26, 2010
Read full document
Text Preview
The novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is a tragedy of a small town farmer that falls in love with his distant cousin. The story revolves mostly around the protagonist Ethan Frome, as his life becomes a living hell. He develops into a very interesting character as he faces difficult decisions to run away with the love of his life, Mattie Silver. However, his morals and beliefs force him to do what is “right” and stay with his wife. Towards the end of the novel, he finally decides to kill himself with Mattie and end the agony of living with his obnoxious and hypochondriac wife. The ending of the novel is ironic because after all that has happened they are still living together, the only difference is that the situation has gotten even worse. Edith Wharton refers to Ethan Frome as a tragedy, and many critics agree with it. However, they still argue over whether or not Ethan Frome is responsible for his tragic fate. As readers read the novel, they realize that Ethan could not avoid his tragic fate. However, as Ethan makes crucial mistakes and the plot develops, the readers begin to feel otherwise. Ethan Frome is clearly responsible for his inevitable fate, as he develops the plot into a tragedy with his silence, his values, and his tragic flaws.

Many will say that the true tragedy in Ethan Frome is Ethan’s wretched and unchangeable life. In truth, his tragic fate could have been avoided if Ethan could just stand up for himself. The name Ethan takes its roots from the ancient Biblical name Eitan, an Israel man known for his wisdom and the name means strong, optimistic, and permanent. Yet, the Ethan the readers see in the story is the total opposite. He may appear to the readers as a tall and strong farmer that can withstand anything in life. When in fact he is no different to a dead person as he cannot stand up for himself. Throughout his life, Ethan is unable to take charge of his life and make it into a life he wants. “Somebody had to stay and take care for the folks, there warn’t ever anybody but Ethan” (Wharton 6). He is always filled with the sense of responsibility and could not live life the way he wants to. Not only that but, he cannot take charge of his relationship with Zeena and it eventually makes matters worse. “I’m going to drive her over myself.” (Wharton 129). When he finally decides to speak up for himself, it is already too late and he is about to lose Mattie. Therefore, without a doubt Ethan had all the control over his tragic fate but Ethan cannot take charge his life and cannot prevent the tragic ending.

Ethan Frome plays the leading role in developing the story into a tragedy as his pride and values prevent him from ever escaping his lifeless life. The protagonist Ethan Frome considers his morals and pride as a major factor in his life. To many people this will come up as good characteristics and help them throughout their life. However, in Ethan’s case, these two factors prevent him from ever leaving his miserable life. Towards the climax of the novel, Ethan faces difficult decision that will change his life forever. That is when his belief and his pride play a major role in leading him to his tragic ending. He has many choices that will able him to run off with the love of his life and live a life he dreams of. “How would she keep the farm going? …could never carry such a burden alone” (Wharton 116). However, his morals prevent him from reaching his goals and eventually force him to stay and take care of his sick wife. As he is looking for a way out of his miserable life, another flaw kicks in; his pitiful pride. When he finds a solution of running off with Mattie, he realizes he will need money to start a new life. At the same time, he also realizes that he would have to beg for money and his pride does not allow him to. “Not a bit, Ethan’s pride retorted before his reason had time to intervene” (Wharton 67). Pride is such a major factor in Ethan’s life it takes over him before he can even...
tracking img