Where Loyalty Lies: Ethan Frome

Topics: Ethan Frome, Marriage, Edith Wharton / Pages: 5 (1013 words) / Published: Mar 24th, 2014
Where Loyalty Lies

Freud believed that each child is born with only the “id”, meaning that they only have wants. It is the parents’ job to shape their child into a mature adult who is able to balance “wants” and responsibilities. What parents teach their children early on mold who they will become later in life. In the novel Ethan Frome, the protagonist, Ethan Frome was molded into a superego, meaning that he focuses on his responsibilities and duties in society. This can otherwise be referred to as the “musts”. He must focus on his family and he must focus on Zeena rather then himself. He must decide where his loyalty belongs in order to achieve what he wants in life. Ethan’s lack of agency, the ability to act is first evident at the beginning of the novel. He is unable to continue on his career path to become an engineer because he must stay behind and care for his parents. His misery at the situation is obvious. It was as if he carried the pain of his life along with him. “ A lameness checking each step like the jerk of a chain. There was something bleak and unapproachable in his face, and he was so stiffened and grizzled that I took him for an old man and was surprised to hear that he was not more then fifty-two” (Wharton 3). Ethan was unable to exceed his moral obligations and instead he was forced to remain in Starkfield. “Most of the smart ones get away. But if that were the case, how could any combination of obstacles have hindered the flight of a man like Ethan Frome” (Wharton 7)? It was evident to all members of that Starkfield community that Ethan’s potential went above and beyond what could be offered for him in Starkfield. But once again Ethan was unable to determine where his loyalty lied, to himself. Ethan quickly ended his schooling and went to run the family farm and mill because he felt that it was his responsibility. In an unsuccessful attempt to escape silence, isolation, and loneliness Ethan proposes to the nurse of his sick mother

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