A setting can have various effects on different people: it usually acts as either
a benefactor or cursor. More often then not, the setting tends to mirror a character's
feelings and/or emotions. In Edith Wharton's short story, Ethan Frome, the
protagonist, Ethan, has himself, ultimately become a victim of his surroundings
having "been in Starkfield too many winters" (5). A hindrance to Ethan and his
desires, the elements of winter and their terrible barrage on Ethan's morality, are what
direct the actions of the novel. In the story, the setting reflects the attitudes and
different outlooks of the characters, helping to shape and direct the tale's plot. This
depiction of setting can be specifically examined through various physical
surroundings and the weather.
The weather depicts the characters as embodiments of winter, which
foreshadows the plot of the story. In the opening scene, Ethan, outside in the cold, is
watching Mattie dance.
The narrator describes the conditions, from which Ethan is
completely withdrawn. "The night was so perfectly still, and the air so dry and pure
that it gave little sensation of cold" (11). Ethan is so amazingly transfixed, that he
does not realize anything else, solely seeing Mattie in a new light. Ethan's state of
absolute withdrawal from everything else is permitted by the dryness and purity of
the air. This scene introduces the intense bond between Ethan and Mattie, and
prefigures their relations to come. Next, when Zeena leaves to get treatment from a
doctor, it leaves Ethan and Mattie alone in the house. The refreshened mood, now that
Zeena has left, is one of utter happiness. The narrator depicts the atmosphere around
Mattie. He describes how "It was warm and bright in the kitchen" (28). These
conditions that are normally associated with good weather, can also reflect...