Symbolism In Ethan Frome

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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The Use of Symobolism in Ethan Frome As a tool of literature, symbolism is an effective method for creating deeper meanings. Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome contains many examples of symbolism, allowing the reader to connect these representations for a stronger impact. These examples create a deeper meaning of the literature rather than what appears on the surface. One of her first uses of symbolism can be found on the appearance of character Mattie Silver. In the story, she is introduced as the dancing girl with a cherry-colored scarf. This noticeably bright and raveled scarf expresses Mattie as a character of infringement. Her attempt to step over the marriage of Ethan and Zeena Frome reflects this character aspect. As she continues to dance, there is a brief moment where her scarf wraps around her neck. At this time, she is dancing in close contact with a young man name Dennis Eady, who appears as a threat to Ethan.

The momentarily fatal threat of the scarf around her neck symbolizes Eady as he appears to Ethan. Another use of symbolism is identified in the event where Zeena is out of town, leaving Ethan and Mattie alone. In the absence of Zeena, the pernicious pet cat symbolically takes her place by sitting in Zeena's chair at the table. Like Zeena's manipulative and ill-willed aspects, the cat will do anything to disrupt the peaceful mood shared between Ethan and Mattie, such as by knocking down a treasured antique pickle dish. As their evening alone continues, the Zeena-like cat suspiciously keeps the couple under close surveillance. An obvious use of symbolic representation can be found in Zeena's antique pickle dish. As her most treasured possession, it surprisingly represents her marriage with Ethan. Zeena's discovery of the broken dish was metaphorically the discovery of her...