Instead, the conflict occurs between his passions and the constraints placed on him by society, which control his conscience and impede his fulfillment of his passions. Although he has one night alone with Mattie, he cannot help but be reminded of his domestic duties as he sits in his kitchen. He plans to elope and run away to the West, but he cannot bring himself to lie to his neighbors in order to procure the necessary money—and so on. In the end, Ethan opts out of the battle between his desires and social and moral orders.
Plot[ edit ] The novel is framed by the literary device of an extended flashback. The prologue, which is neither named as such nor numbered, opens with an unnamed male narrator spending a winter in Starkfield while in the area on business.
He spots a limping, quiet man around the village, who is somehow compelling in his demeanor and carriage. This is Ethan Frome, who is a local fixture of the community, having been a lifelong resident. Frome is described as "the most striking figure in Starkfield", "the ruin of a man" with a "careless powerful look…in spite of a lameness checking each step like the jerk of a chain".
Curious, the narrator sets out to learn about him. He learns that Frome's limp arose from having been injured in a "smash-up" twenty-four years before, but further details are not forthcoming, and the narrator fails to learn much more from Frome's fellow townspeople other than that Ethan's attempt at higher education decades before was thwarted by the sudden illness of his father following an injury, forcing his return to the farm to assist his parents, never to leave again.
Because people seem not to wish to speak other than in vague and general terms about Frome's past, the narrator's curiosity grows, but he learns little more.
Chance circumstances arise that allow the narrator to hire Frome as his driver for a week. A severe snowstorm during one of their journeys forces Frome to allow the narrator to shelter at his home one night. Just as the two are entering Frome's house, the prologue ends.
We then embark on the "first" chapter Chapter Iwhich takes place twenty-four years prior. The narration switches from the first-person narrator of the prologue to a limited third-person narrator.
Mattie is given the occasional night off to entertain herself in town as partial recompense for helping care for the Fromes, and Ethan has the duty of walking her home.
It is quickly clear that Ethan has deep feelings for Mattie. Passing the graveyard, he thinks in an intense moment of foreshadowing that, "We'll always go on living here together, and some day she'll lie there beside me. When Zeena leaves for an overnight visit to seek treatment for her various complaints and symptoms in a neighboring town, Ethan is excited to have an evening alone with Mattie.
During this evening, the narrator reveals small actions that show that they each have feelings for the other, including a lingering of touching hands on the milk jug, although neither openly declares their love.
Mattie makes supper and retrieves from a high shelf Zeena's treasured pickle dish, which Zeena, in a symbol of her stingy nature, never uses, in order to protect it.
Mattie uses it to present Ethan with a simple supper, and disaster ensues when the Frome's cat jumps on the table and knocks it off, shattering it beyond repair. Ethan tries to help by setting the dish's pieces neatly in the cupboard, presenting the false impression of wholeness if not examined closely, with plans to purchase some glue and fix it as soon as he can.
Ethan then goes into town to buy glue for the broken pickle dish, and upon his return finds that Zeena has also come home. Zeena retreats upstairs, proclaiming her illness, and refusing supper because she is not hungry. There, she informs Ethan that she plans to send Mattie away and has already hired another girl to replace her, claiming that she needs someone more efficient because her health is failing more rapidly than ever.
Ethan is angry and frustrated to the point of panic by the thought of losing Mattie, and he is also worried for Mattie, who has no other place to go and no way to support herself in the world.
Mattie reacts with shock but rapid acceptance, trying to calm Ethan, while Ethan becomes more agitated and begins to insist that he will not let her go. Moments later, they are interrupted by Zeena, who has decided that she is hungry after all.
After supper, Zeena discovers the broken pickle dish and is heartbroken and enraged; this betrayal cements her determination to send Mattie away.
Ethan, miserable at the thought of losing Mattie and worried sick about her fate, considers running away with Mattie, but he lacks the money to do so. He feels that he cannot abandon Zeena because he knows that she would neither be able to run the farm nor sell it the poor quality of the place has been discussed at several points in the story already.Ethan makes a run into town to pick up some glue for the pickle dish.
When he arrives back at the farm, expecting to find Mattie alone, she informs him that Zeena has returned. Quickly collecting himself, Ethan visits the bedroom to greet his wife. Mar 10, · Ethan Frome This first one is almost a cheat since the characters survive, but for the wow factor, deserves a very honorable mention.
Set in a dismal little town, Ethan’s life is as dreary as the fictional town of Starkville, timberdesignmag.coms: 1. Her Ethan Frome, describing woes of some peasants, wasn't authentic or credible enough, IMO, and neither is Summer.
The main character in this novella, Charity Royall, was "brought down from the Mountains" in infancy and raised by a big wig lawyer in a tiny town of North Dormer/5. A summary of Themes in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome.
Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Ethan Frome and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans. Helpful resources related to Ethan Frome from all over the Web.
Websites, articles, videos, and images. Movie or TV Productions. Ethan Frome, A film adaptation starring Liam Neeson as Ethan, Joan Allen as Zeena, and Patricia Arquette as Mattie. Film . Ethan yearns to escape Starkfield; when he was younger, we learn, he hoped to leave his family farm and work as an engineer in a larger town.
Though Zeena and poverty are both forces that keep Ethan from fulfilling his dream, the novel again and again positions the climate as a major impediment to both Ethan and his fellow townsfolk.