Summary Analysis Ethan looks forward to an evening alone with Mattie, and recalls how warm and inviting the kitchen was in the days when his mother was alive. He remembers that his mother had been a "talker," until her illness, when she fell silent and began to hear voices.
Starkfield is besieged by long winters in which everything lies buried under a deep, frozen layer of snow. Similarly, Ethan "seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface.
But soon, Zeena too falls silent, her emotional chill becoming an extension of the external chill whose deadening influence Ethan had feared. Zeena lacks the fresh beauty that is associated with fertility: While images of winter and frozenness characterize Ethan and Zeena, Mattie is described in terms of warmth and spring.
In Chapter 8, when Ethan is determined to do something to enable him to be with Mattie, the sun comes out and a "pale haze" of spring can be seen, which Ethan associates with Mattie. When we first see him and Mattie in the same scene, she is dancing in a brightly lit hall while Ethan waits for her, hanging back in the darkness outside.
When he meets her, he wishes he could "stand there with her all night in the blackness. Darkness is symbolic of the hidden, illicit nature of their love. When Zeena returns from Bettsbridge Chapter 7she sits in darkness in her room, the darkness underlining the habitual inexpressiveness of the Frome marriage.
In contrast, when Zeena left for Bettsbridge Chapter 4leaving Mattie in charge, the kitchen had immediately looked "homelike" and "warm and bright. The symbolism is continued in the red sunsets they watch together on their walks to and from the village, which he sees reflected in her face.
The pickle dish that Mattie gets down for her and Ethan to use on their first evening together is red; significantly, Zeena means for it never to be used.
In Chapter 1, Zeena is portrayed as lying under a "dark" quilt, her bony face grey against her white pillow. A "black wraith" of a creeper hangs by the door, reminiscent of the black streamer that people used to tie to the door as a sign that someone inside had died. Animals Mattie is associated with the imagery of birds: Birds have connotations of liveliness, joyfulness and fragility.
Also, they can fly, lending a much-needed freedom to the earthbound world of Ethan Frome. After the accident, as Ethan regains consciousness, he hears "a small frightened cheep like a field mouse.
Zeena is associated with the Frome household cat. Most important, the cat breaks the pickle dish that Zeena prizes above all else and that Mattie has illicitly got down from the closet to make the table attractive for Ethan.
This episode marks a turning point for Zeena, and she resolutely acts to get rid of Mattie. The pickle dish The pickle dish is the most potent symbol in the novel. It was a wedding present which she has ensured is never used by placing it on the top shelf of the china closet.
The fact that the dish is red, and that Zeena insists it remains unused, is symbolic of the sexual and emotional deadness of her marriage to Ethan. However, when Zeena goes away for a day, Mattie gets down the pickle dish to make the table attractive for Ethan on their first evening together.
The fact that the cat breaks the pickle dish is significant: It is typical of Ethan that after the dish is broken, he lays together the pieces, unable to consign it to the dustbin or to confront Zeena with the truth.
His aim in this deception is to calm the distraught Mattie and avoid upsetting Zeena. She bears it carefully from the room as if it were a "dead body. Her hysterical response marks her first and only expression of real emotion in the novel. On one hand, it is ludicrous that she should set such store by a mere object; on the other, if we assume that Zeena is alive to the symbolism of the dish, we can interpret her grief as arising from the realization that her marriage is no more.
But even if the latter is true, she continues to do nothing constructive to inject life into the marriage, and neither does she decisively end it, preferring instead to mourn uselessly over broken shards.
The shed roof sags under the weight of snow; the paint is worn; and the sawmill wheel sits idle. A "black wraith" of a creeper hangs by the door, reminiscent of the black streamers that people used to hang by the door as a sign of mourning.
Most significantly, the "L" part of the house that forms the "center, the actual hearth-stone" of a New England farm, and which shelters the family from the elements on their way from the house to the cow-barn, has been demolished.
The narrator sees the loss of this building as symbolic of the diminishment of Ethan himself. The elm tree Some critics see the big elm tree into which Ethan and Mattie collide in their suicide attempt as a phallic symbol.
Before their suicide pact, both view the tree with awe, as they know that Ned Hale and Ruth Varnum were nearly killed by colliding with it when sledding.
But they talk of the tree with bravado, each claiming that they are not afraid of it. It is clear that there is a coded message being communicated.
Each is feeling the other out as to whether he or she has the courage to pursue the illicit relationship. Thus the tree takes on the symbolism of their passionate potentially sexual but illicit and therefore dangerous relationship.Wharton establishes patterns of imagery by using figurative language — language meant to be taken figuratively as well as literally.
In Ethan Frome, Wharton's descriptive imagery is one of the most important features of her simple and efficient prose style.
Her descriptions serve a definite stylistic and structural purpose. Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton's novella, is a masterpiece in miniature, which packs so much longing and anguish and guilt into such a small space.
And of course, To Kill a /5(K).
Sep 19, · In Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, one interesting aspect was the relationship between the nature and weather of Starkfield, and the protagonist’s bleak situation throughout the events of the story. Ethan Frome is a native inhabitant of Starkfield.
In Ethan Frome author Edith Wharton uses parallel scenes of Zeena and Mattie opening the farmhouse door. In both scenes Ethan was locked out of the house, both nights he searched for the key, but never succeeded to find it.
There is a deliberate parallel in the scene where Mattie opens the door to Ethan, just as Zeena had done the previous night. Though the event is identical, the two women are shown as very different from one another.
Ethan chose to die rather than stay with his spouse. That wasn't a satisfactory solution for Wharton, though.
In , two years after Ethan Frome was published, she filed for divorce. Ethan Frome surprised Edith Wharton's fans because it differed from all her previous books.