Ethan Frome - Character Analysis

Essay by TongueUntiedHigh School, 10th gradeA+, April 2004

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A disabled man, his wife and his mistress, living alone at the top of a hill in a small New England town; these elements seem to belong in the beginning of a cryptic murder mystery. Instead, it is the outcome of Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome. Ethan, the protagonist, is affected by many circumstances surrounding him. Events spanning from the death of his mother to a tragic tobogganing accident have taken a toll on Ethan's mental and physical condition. The protagonist of Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome, is highly influenced by the situations and circumstances he encounters.

The most obvious circumstance affecting Ethan's life is the women that live with him. His wife, Zeena, is really a distant cousin that came to live with Ethan to care for his sick mother. Once his mother died, Zeena planned on moving back with her family. Suddenly she got 'sick' and needed Ethan to take care of her, so they married and Zeena stayed in Ethan's house.

With all of Zeena's sudden ailments, they needed a girl to help around the house. Zeena's second cousin's daughter, Mattie, then came to live with the Fromes. Zeena continues to fake illness in order to get Ethan to pay attention to her. For instance, when Zeena and Ethan would fight and he said something to offend her, she would launch into a coughing fit, distracting Ethan from the argument and forcing him to pity her. On the other hand, there was the young girl Mattie. She was Zeena's absolute opposite. Where Zeena was quick-witted and smart, Mattie was absentminded, but she was the obvious beauty when compared to Zeena. To Ethan, Mattie was everything Zeena couldn't give him. Ethan was overcome with lust for this young girl. She used her positive qualities...