There are several themes in "Ethan Frome". These include silence, isolation, illusion, and the consequences that are the result of living according to the rules of society. A lot of Ethan Frome was based off of Wharton's life. Wharton would schedule time to write before scheduling social engagements. Because of this, she was very familiar with silence and isolation. Also, she was frowned upon society for working, and knew the complications of living according to its rules.
One of the biggest themes in the novel is silence. In the beginning, Wharton describes her characters as "granite outcroppings..half emerged from the soil, and scarcely more articulate." All of the main characters are stuck in silence. Ethan is imprisoned by silence because he lives with Zeena, and before that, another sick women (his mother). He also has the hardship of keeping his love silent. Zeena falls silent due to her "illness," which is assumed to be hypochondria.
Mattie, like Ethan, must also suffer by having to keep her love a secret. Because of the lack of communication with each other, these characters also suffer from isolation.