Essay, Research Paper: Ethan Frome

World Literature

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Ethan Frome, the main character in the book entitled Ethan Frome, by Edith
Wharton, has many complex problems going on at the same time. His family has
died and he has a wife that is continually sick, and the only form of happiness
he has is from his wife's cousin Mattie. This, however, at times, proves to be
hard because of his wife's interference. Nothing seems to be going in Ethan's
favor. The main theme of the book is failure, and this is shown through marrying
his wife, not being able to stand up to his wife, and his involvement concerning
the "smash up." The first way failure is shown in the book is through
the marriage of Ethan and his wife. He married her because she had tried to help
his mother recover from an illness and once his mother died he could not bear
the thought of being alone. His wife was seven years his senior and always
seemed to have some kind of illness. It seemed that all she ever did was
complain, and he resented this because it stifled his growing soul. Since his
wife was continuously ill, and her cousin needed a place to stay, they took her
in to help around the house. Ethan took an immediate liking to her cousin,
Mattie, because she brought a bright light upon his dismal day. He seemed to
have found someone that cared for him, was always happy, and could share his
youth, unlike his sickly wife who always nagged him. He longed to be with
Mattie, however he had to be loyal to his wife. Being married to the wrong
person proved to be Ethan's first failure. Ethan's second failure was not being
able to stand up for himself against his wife. Zeena claimed that a new doctor
said that she was extremely sick, and needed more help around the house. She
told him, without any discussion, that Mattie had to go. Ethan could not find
the words to make her alter her decision. His wife also decided that Mattie had
to leave the next day itself and Ethan could not do anything about it. "
Now she [his wife] had mastered him [Ethan]...." provides proof of this.
Ethan just could not find the right things to say and it was because of not
being able to stand up to his wife that he was going to lose the only thing that
made him happy, Mattie. Ethan's last failure was the way he modified his and
Mattie's lives regarding the "smash up." He so desperately wanted to
run away with Mattie, but he could not because his practical sense told him it
was not feasible to do so. Mattie wanted so desperately to be with Ethan, that
she suggested in order to stay together forever was to die together. It was
Ethan's job to steer the sled into the tree, so that it looked like an
accidental death instead of suicide. Instead of hitting the tree head on, he
swerved and it did not kill either of them. Instead, it just injured them, and
these injuries stayed with them forever. In this way Ethan had his last failure
in not exceeding to die with his love, instead he had to live with the guilt
from his wife, the injured Mattie, and broken dreams. In these three way of
marrying the wrong person, not being able to stand up to his wife, and incidents
that come from the smash up, proves that the main theme of the book is failure.
It appeared that everything Ethan tried to do worked against his favor. With all
the incidents that happened, it seemed inevitable that his life would always be
a string of failure.

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