Essay, Research Paper
The Theme of Lonliness in Ethan Frome
In the novel Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, the character of Ethan Frome plays an important role in the development of the rest of the book. He has several character traits which distinguish him from the other main characters. Also, there are many factors which play against him throughout the novel.
The physical appearance of Ethan Frome played a significant part in creating his character. He was a tall, thin man. He had dark colored hair and dark eyes. He seemed a little rough around the edges and the scar on the side of his face was another of his distinguishing marks. At the very beginning of the book, he is 52 years old, but is described as looking much older than that. Throughout the main part of the book, which is a flashback, Frome is in his 20’s. After the sledding accident with Mattie, he is left with bad vision in his right eye, which causes him trouble sometimes. Ethan Frome stutters and speaks in abbreviated forms sometimes. Most of the people in the town and in the novel speak in abbreviated forms. The actual town itself and the surroundings of Frome are harsh and cold, especially in winter when the book takes place. These harsh surroundings make Frome who he is and give him a “careless powerful look”.
Speech also renders some importance in this novel. A few examples of abbreviated words are: “Wurst kind”, and “More’n enough”, and lastly “Oh, I ain’t afr’d”. All of these slang words and also many more were used throughout the novel. This misuse of words shows that Frome and the other characters were not well educated. The work was more important than learning and also, Ethan Frome’s parents needed taken care of while he was still a young man. He was forced to grow up too quickly, to become an adult much too quickly.
Ethan Frome was highly motivated by Mattie Silver. He dreamed of being with her and not with his wife Zeena. His motivation reflected his behavior towards his family and friends and most of all Mattie. Each time he looked at her, he felt that they were meant to be together forever. He even thought about running away with her to the west and starting over again. His marriage to Zeena was a forced marriage because of her services given to Ethan’s mother when she was sick and dying. Frome could not hold back his emotions for Mattie Silver and each chance he had, he expressed them to her. Although he felt guilty about lying to Zeena just to be with Mattie, he could not help his actions he was so in love.
Frome changed throughout the novel several times. In the beginning of the novel he was unhappy, ruled by his wife once again after the accident had occurred. During the flashback, he was anxious to see what was going to happen between Mattie and him. This was a better time in his life, but he was still not completely happy. Once again at the end of the book, he was sad. Stuck in the routine of daily life, unable to escape the Starkfield winters, one of the few that had stayed. This change was inevitable, and at least he had some life in his daily routine, even if it was short lived. This change proved that he was seriously stuck in his system of daily events. His life was anything but extraordinary.
The worst experience of Frome’s life can easily be recognized as the fact that Zeena was going to make Mattie silver, her cousin, go to live in another town. This completely shattered Ethan’s world and he was distressed into almost running off to the West with his true love, Mattie. The words uttered by Zeena that night that she and Frome were in the bedroom were the last hope for Frome to have a life of his own. That one day that Zeena went to Bettsbridge, Frome discovered that there was hope for him, that he could have a life, and he was tempted to try it. This experience led to the sledding accident and the attempted mutual suicide between Frome and Silver, causing both of their lives to be changed forever. Zeena also led to her own misfortune, she had to care for the two while they recovered, and Mattie was left paralyzed for life. Frome was in able to do the same amount of farm work as before.
The best experience in Frome’s life was the few moments before the sledding accident. He discovered that Mattie Silver truly loved him and wouldn’t be able to live without him. As they stood in each others arms, they experienced a sense of ease that neither of them had ever felt before. They had led hard lives and this was the end. Theirs dreams were crushed, yet these moments were very important in the course of their lives. This was also the point in which they decided that if they couldn’t live with each other, they wouldn’t live at all. They decided to commit suicide mutually, and failed. It may have been better off if they had succeeded, because they led miserable lives after the accident.
The novel Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, created a vivid character image for the actual character of Ethan Frome. His role was depicted by physical appearance, speech, behavior and motivation, response and change, worst life experience, and best life experience. All of these themes help develop the novel and other characters.