Ethan Frome Essay

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade October 2001

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Many authors use different literary devices to exhibit tone and underlying meanings of a certain passage. The setting of a novel can be used very effectively in conveying a certain tone and describing characters. Imagery, like setting, can also be used to make a more accurate description of a character and depict the desired tone. In Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome, Warton is able to use those two elements to create a dreary and somber tone for certain sections, while making others seem bright and optimistic.

The story begins with a narrator describing the harsh New England winter. The blizzard that occurs during the prologue creates an image of an acrimonious land. With the image of such a brutal setting, the image of those who could survive on it is equally rough. A description of the Frome farm, with its "plaintive ugliness" against a dark winter day makes Frome and his farm seem dreary and dead.

When the actual story is told, the setting is kept in a winter setting.

Throughout the novel, Zeena is associated with the dark and dreary side of winter. She is first introduced to the reader in the darkness while Ethan is shaving. She is always described against a dark background is never even presented with the warmth of the stove. Instead, she is always present in the kitchen when the stove is cold and light from it is dim. Even their marriage is based on the rough and sad winter during which Ethan's mother died. With so many downcast images associated with Zeena, Wharton is able to depict her in such a negative tone that she is easily seen as the antagonist.

In contrast to gloomy image of Zeena, Mattie is associated with happy and much brighter things than her counterpart. Warton uses warmer images of Mattie. She is the one who helps keep the fire warm and is described by summer and spring. Whenever the Mattie is describes through Ethan, she is connected with warm and cheerful things. Ethan talks of "the warmth she sent through him" whenever they touch and talks of how her laugh "is as cheerful as a summer day". Even the bright scarf and dish Mattie uses serves as a contrast to Zeena. Warton is successful in creating Mattie in a nice, light tone. Through the imagery that Wharton uses, Mattie is seen as a helpless victim of falling in love with an unavailable man.

Setting and imagery are two very useful tools in conveying tone in a novel. Edith Wharton is able use these two literary techniques successfully conveying her desired tone throughout the novel