How Does Edith Wharton Convey the Feelings of Ethan Frome for Mattie

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Re-read from page 16 “When his wife first proposed that they should give Mattie an occasional evening…” to page 17 “and that words had at last been found to utter his secret soul.”

Ethan Frome is a novel written by Edith Wharton, it was published first in 1911. It recounts the story of a “couple” in an fictive isolated village, Starkfield in Massachusetts. With the arrival of Mattie, a cousin of Zeena, their lives changed radically. This extract is situated at the very beginning of the book; the author has just introduced the main character and the setting. In this extract, the author shows us the evolution of the feelings that have Ethan towards Mattie.

At the start of the book, we learn that Ethan and Mattie have been married for ten years and that they are not very happy together, the arrival of Mattie was like a tsunami for Ethan. When they came back from dance, “her light step flying to keep time with his long stride.” The imagery used by Edith Wharton here to describe Mattie’s step could be seen trough Ethan’s eyes therefore revealing how he feels for her, because describing her step as “flying” would and will only be romantic. The author through this image might start to show Ethan’s feeling for Mattie Silver, showing here a start and therefore this foreshadows what will be his feelings as the book advances.

To show that, he also uses different techniques, for example, in the extract, “the lightning of a fire on a cold earth.” The comparison here echoes with the life of Ethan and Zeena. Indeed, the cold earth represents their relationship, cold being the exact word to describe it, earth being their cold house, the lightning represents here the arrival of Mattie, with all the joy she brings with her. The author creates a contrast between the coldness of the house and the heat of the personality of Mattie that she creates in the house. Ethane can feel the heat of Mattie and that is why he loves her, because compared to...
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