Ethan Frome Throughout the book, Zeena shows nothing but bitterness and contempt towards Ethan. It is clear that Ethan does have feelings for his wife's cousin, Mattie Silver, and wants to be near her always more than anything, but beginning a new life isn't as easy as Ethan could have hoped. I believe that Ethan does not leave Zeena and begin a new life with Mattie because it would be too difficult for all three of them to start over.
Firstly, Ethan could never leave Zeena alone because it would be merely impossible for her to care for herself, especially when the farm didn't produce barely anything that could provide her a suitable living. Also, since Zeena constantly believed she was ill and on her deathbed, Ethan couldn't just take off with Mattie while Zeena and her hypochondriac ways were running up the doctor bills. With Ethan gone, there would be no way Zeena could possibly pay off the bills alone and she would run herself into further debt.
Secondly, if Ethan ran off with Mattie to the West, there was a slight chance that he wouldn't find work, or if he did, it wouldn't be a well paying job. With those possibilities, he wondered if he would still be able to support Mattie under those conditions. If Ethan could not come up with even a meager living for Mattie in the West, what would happen to them? Ethan couldn't take the chance of having no shelter and food for Mattie if they did decide to try a future out in the West.
Lastly, besides the fact that Zeena couldn't take care of herself, there were other factors that led Ethan to make his decision to stay in Starkfield on his barren farm. Back in the early 1900's it was not common to leave one's spouse for another man or woman. Married couples generally stayed together throughout the good and bad times. Besides, Zeena was also the one who took care of Ethan's mother throughout her illness and helped him make the funeral plans and decisions about what was to be done with her things after she passed way. With all of Zeena's help during that time, Ethan was able to continue on with both his work and social life. He even admitted that the sound of a "new voice" had helped steady him during those rough times. These are just some of the reasons why Ethan married Zeena and how it would be so difficult for him to leave her.
In conclusion, because of these reasons, Ethan's leaving Zeena would make Mattie's, Zeena's, and his life far more difficult than it already was. It wasn't that Ethan was a wimp or the fact that he has no pride and character, but the problems that they each could face if Ethan did leave.