English 1 Honors
Independence is the degree to which we rely on others. You can be independent mentally and physically. The cliché view of independence is usually someone that makes his/her choices and is very successful. Independence can also lead to unhappiness. You can be fully independent but reconsider your decisions for your significant other, putting their happiness before yours. Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton is about Ethan’s increasing desire for his wife’s cousin, Mattie. It is my opinion that Ethan Frome chooses how independent he is, making himself ‘‘semiindependent’’ due to money, health and love.
Right from the start of the book, we can tell that money is going to have some type of effect on people as it does in reality. Money, to be honest makes the world go round and if you don’t have it, you can’t progress. We know that Starksfield is a boring, barren, place that seems to get no trade, making everyone in that area a little empty in the pockets. Starksfield, in my opinion, represents a place full of people waiting to be liberated from their personal burdens. This is Ethan’s situation. Ethan is amongst the citizens that are struggling to get by. This limits his independence because he cannot live as comfortably as he might have wished to. Also he can’t do anything about it because that cost money. So he is stuck in Starksfield, living a monotonous life with no say in what happens with his money. Just following the ‘‘system’’. Then again, Ethan is pretty independent for trying to assure that his family has a source of income. He wasn’t really ordered to find a job, but he thought it was his position to go out and be a man. Most people would have either sent their partner back to their parents or moved in with them. Others might have asked for government assistance. Ethan decided to show determination to kind of prevent that from happening. Also, I think that independence requires responsibility.
Ethan shows plenty of responsibility by not running off when things got rough. He stayed through, did his work, and kept a level head, without any help.
As I have previously stated, health has an impact on Ethan’s independence. His parents become sick and prevent him from leaving to go to Florida and pursue his dream of becoming an engineer. This is where everything went downhill. His mom needs a nurse to help around the house and take care of her. That’s when Zeenobia comes into the picture. She does her best to nurse Ethan’s parents back to health. Unfortunately they don’t make it and Zeenobia is going to be leaving. This is where I believe Ethan loses his independence completely. Ethan thinks he needs Zeenobia’s company. We then see him questioning this action later on in the book when he says he wonders if this would have happened if his parents passed in the spring. He and Zeenobia get married and are looking forward to a happy life; change in scenery matter of fact. Then Zeenobia falls horribly ill and Ethan is stuck taking care of her. This is where I felt like Ethan could have chosen how independent he was going to be. Honestly, he stayed with a ‘‘cripple’’, added on to his troubles, and has no ray of happiness in his already miserable life. He shows he follows others rules, even though he is supposed to be the dominant one in the relationship. I also think that in general, Ethan is just a nice person. He is loyal and family means a lot to him. So he is not going to leave someone just because of sickness. One might see Ethan as very independent. He did have an option and he decided on what he thought would benefit him for that period in his life. To be independent is like trial and error. You have to make mistakes to make sure you don’t make them again. Also, as I stated previously stated, Ethan stayed with Zeenobia, paying for her medication, giving her proper care, working to keep them from dying. That is...
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Shmoop Editorial Team. "Zeena Frome in Ethan Frome." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11
Nov. 2008. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
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