April 28, 2013
The novel Ethan Frome, written by Edith Wharton, takes place in Stark Field, Massachusetts during the late 1800s, early 1900s. In this tragic romance, Ethan Frome, a very poor man who, due to his poverty is isolated from the rest of the town and is forced to live with his wife, Zeena, who has always been what Starkfield calls “sickly” (31) Ethan falls in love with their hired girl Mattie, a “helpful young life…like the lighting of a fire on a cold health,” (29) who also falls in love with him and together they cause the “smash-up.”(Pro) Naturalism is portrayed to illustrate how a characters environment can affect his or her life. Ethan’s environment has caused his literal and spiritual poverty.
Due to Ethan’s environment, he has been forced to live a life of poverty. For example, Ethan works all day “struggling on under the burden of his barren farm and failing saw-mill” (54) and because he works so hard to earn the little money that he has he becomes angry when Zeena buys a new book because “he had had to pay extra postage” (119) Also, when Zeena told him that she had hired a new girl he responded by saying “I haven’t got the money to pay for a girl, Zeena…you’re a poor man’s wife.” (94) To conclude, when Ethan had finally decided that he was going to elope with Mattie he couldn’t because he didn’t have the money and was too proud to ask Mr. Hale for some. “He was planning on taking advantage of the Hale’s sympathy to obtain money from them on false pretenses.” (118) Ethan’s environment causes him to live a life of poverty that denies him happiness.
Ethan’s environment has caused him to have spiritual poverty. For instance, Ethan lives in such a hostile environment because of Zeena that he wishes he “could at least imagine that peace reigned in his house.”(54)Furthermore, Ethan wasn’t able to go to the church dance because he had to work all day, “felling timber” (127) and felt like an “exhausted receiver” (28) by the time he was done. In conclusion, Ethan had returned to Starkfield to “take care of his folks” (12) and was planning on moving west, but Zeena had become sick and he had to take care. Therefore he’s “been in Starkfield too many winters” (12) Ethan’s environment caused him to have spiritual poverty and be isolated from the rest of the world.
Ethan’s environment has caused his literal and spiritual poverty. Ethan’s environment causes him to live a life of poverty, in which he can’t live out his dream of being with Mattie. Due to Ethan’s poverty he must work all day, every day and therefore be isolated, segregated, and antisocial. The author’s uses the environment and heredity play to prevent him from fulfilling his dreams and living the life he’s always wanted.