About Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome
Starkfield, Massachusetts during the early eighteen-hundreds is a dull and uneventful place. The winter season in general has been known to be very depressing with a lack of vitamin D and being more restricted to indoor activities. In the novel, Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, Ethan is affected greatly by the impacts of the long, brutal winter in terms of his well being, his relationships, and his fate.
Throughout the novel, it is easy for us to see how the dull and sorrowful winters affect Ethan Frome’s well being. First, in the prologue, the Narrator is showing sympathy for Ethan being almost stuck in Starkfield for too much time. …one phrase stuck in my memory ‘Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters, says the Narrator, referring to something Harmon Gow said (Wharton 4). Later, in that same section, the Narrator continues talking of this phrase he heard and writes, But when winter shut down on Starkfield and the village lay under a sheet of snow perpetually renewed from the pale skies, I began to see what life thereor rather its negationmust have been in Ethan Frome’s young manhood, (Wharton 5). This example shows how the Narrator who had not been in the town long, could see how the winters of Starkfield could have affected anyone’s well being, but specifically proving it affected Ethan’s because of the negation he mentions. Therefore, the Narrator was able to see and show the reader how the brutal winters, made it easy for Ethan’s well being and emotions to turn negative.
Since Ethan’s emotions are now triggered towards negativity due to the winter, he now begins to look at everything in his life as depressing, except for Mattie, of course. For example, Ethan and Zeena’s marriage is anything but happy. So, in all truth, he does have a right to be upset about that anyway, but it really controls his whole life. The author even wrote that, He had often thought since that it would not have happened if his mother had died in spring instead of winter , referring to Ethan and his marriage ( (4) 42). He clearly does not want to be in this marriage, but also states how he knew it would not have happened in the first place in the Spring, because the Winter is proven to be such a depressing season in Starkfield. Thus, implying he was lonely and stuck inside when his father died, leading to him being vulnerable enough to get married in that time. This is unbelievable evidence, proving the winter had an extreme effect on both Ethan’s actions and his relationship.
Ethan’s terrible fate was caused by these torrential winters in Starkfield, Massachusetts as well. His sledding with Mattie on that beautiful day in winter seemed so great to the two of them, but of course, no Starkfield winter is looked at as a good winter. When they were kissing on Mattie’s moving day, the author writes, Her hat had slipped back and he was stroking her hair. He wanted to get the feeling of it into his hand, so that it would sleep there like a seed in winter. Once he found her mouth again, and they seemed to be by the pond together in the burning August sun, (103). This quote can show both that his relationship with Mattie was the only bright and happy part of his life at the time, and that the winter really made things more dull. Then shortly after, Ethan begins thinking of suicide as Mattie brings it up. He said to himself: “Perhaps it’ll feel like this…” and then again: “After this I sha’n’t feel anything , Wharton writes (104). This is certainly solid proof that Ethan and even Mattie believe their lives are so horrible in the winter,and it’s due to the marriage of the winterthat they would think about ending life just to be together. The two were on their way down the hill, ready to just die to be together, but instead they are just severely injured and have to continue their lives with their terrible new conditions. Thus, again proving that the winter has led to the overall fate of Ethan being negative and hard to get through.
Therefore, Edith Wharton used the setting of the torrential winters in Starkfield, Massachusetts to emit a negative aspect on how Ethan’s life is in terms of his well being, relationships, and eventually, his fate. When someone says the winter is depressing, I’m sure it hasn’t been as depressing as Ethan Frome’s has.
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