Ethan Frome

Essay by pxaxsHigh School, 11th gradeA-, October 2014

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Throughout the entire regionalist novella Ethan Frome, written by Edith Wharton, I didn't entirely know if Starkfield was a place or a person. I was aware the story was set in Starkfield, Massachusetts, but the way the author talked about it, Starkfield seemed like an actual character. As I dissect the chapters of the book, I can definitely understand why it serves as a character.

I came across many quotes mentioning Starkfield, like when the author described Zenobia, or Zeena's life. "She chose to look down on Starkfield, but she could not have lived in a place that looked down on her." (p.30) Personification was used to give the effect that an actual person looked down on her, but in reality it was just the place of which Zeena lived in. As I read about Denis Eady, it said "he had given Starkfield it's first notion of 'smart' business methods."

(p.13) This made me think of how much a person's failure or success reflects on the city where they're from.

When the book described Andrew Hale, it said "…his large family frequently kept him what Starkfield calls 'behind' (p.39). Notice that the author gave the illusion of an actual person saying that. Also, Starkfield apparently has a favorite coasting-ground (p.12). It's clear to see that Starkfield isn't just a setting or a city; it's a definite character in this novella.

After giving quite a bit of thought into this characterization, I realized that Ethan Frome's life is parallel to the setting of Starkfield, Massachusetts. The city is desolate and bleak. It's winters are harsh and cold. Even the name "stark" means unpleasant and grim. If one ends up living in this city, they will endure a life of hardship; just like Ethan Frome.

There are many characterizations of...