The Personality Of The Main Hero Of Ethan Frome By Edith Wharton

May 14, 2021 by Essay Writer

Ethan Frome is one of Edith Wharton critically acclaimed novella’s. Wharton uses the ideas of her era to influence her overall message/theme of her works. Her descriptors and use of “big picture” ideas allows for reliability and a broader outlook on Ethan’s life. Ethan Frome is a complex individual, dealing with the death of his mother and personal relationships with two women. Ethan struggles to provide for his severely ill wife Zeena, be able to achieve a steady income and maintain as well as hide his ongoing “affair” with Mattie. Throughout Ethan Frome, Wharton suggest that the theme of duty and morality vs. desire is mostly seen through Ethan as he struggles against the customs and rules of society, fighting an inner battle between what he feels and he needs in order to be happy and what he feels he must do to gratify his family and society.

Within Ethan Frome, the main protagonist Ethan knows that society would severely judge a man who abandons their wife, and because he knows that without him Zeena would suffer in poverty, he can’t bring himself to leave her. Similarly, Ethan avoids entering into an affair with Mattie because he knows that an affair would ruin Mattie’s reputation.

““Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away. ” “Why didn’t he?” “. . he had to stay”” (Wharton, 10)This passage suggest that he needed to stay because he knew what would happen to both Mattie and Zeena if he did leave. Miss. Silver would most likely follow him and Zeena would die eventually without Ethan by her side. By doing so, it would tarnish both their reputations as well as Ethan’s. When Ethan’s father suddenly passes away, he must leave college where he studied physics and by his own sense of duty to return and take over the farm. In their society it is also custom for women like Mattie who is poor, beautiful and charming to marry a good looking, wealth man like Denis Eady which Zeena makes very clear to Ethan.

“I wouldn’t ever have it said that I stood in the way of a poor girl like Mattie marrying a smart fellow like Denis Eady” (Wharton, 25)Zeena, as his wife has the exclusive right to Ethan’s love and loyalty. To protect her marriage and ensure her security, Zeena reminds slyly to Ethan that it is in Mattie’s best interest to secure her future and protection to marry a favourable young bachelor like Denis Eady. Despite his love and concern for Mattie, Ethan cannot bear to lose her to a younger and more successful rival but does realize that this is what society expects of Mattie Silver.

What Ethan want and what he must do are two very different things for him and are on opposite ends of the spectrum. He desires to be with Mattie but he knows that he must stay with Zeena.

“To Ethan, still in rosy haze of his hour with Mattie, the sight came with the intense precision of the last dream before waking. He felt as if he had never before known what his wife looked like” (Wharton, 33)

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