Sunday, February 20, 2011
Ethan Frome; Edith Wharton
Title: Ethan Frome
Author: Edith Wharton
Publication Year: 1911 / 2008 (eBook)
Date Completed: 2/16/2011
Setting: New England
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Recommend: Yes, but (depressing story)
Ethan Frome is a tragic story which takes place in 19th century New England. The setting for the novel is a town called Starkfield, a name which says it all. Starkfield is a cold, isolated, farm town where Ethan Frome has lived all of his life. Ethan is a quiet and secretive man who was injured in an accident some 25 years earlier. He married an older woman, actually a cousin, named Zeena who had cared for his mother prior to her death. For Ethan, the marriage was not based on love, but more out of his fear of being alone.
Ethan would have liked to move away from Starkfield, but Zeena would not hear of it. She turns out to be a domineering woman ,a sickly woman or perhaps a hypochondriac that is used to her advantage. Yet her whiny ways still manage to have a powerful hold on Ethan. Before long Zeena's cousin, 20-something Mattie Silver, joins the Frome household to help out and to care for Zeena. Mattie is the total opposite of Zeena. Her personality is cheery, and she seems to bring a little joy into Ethan's bleak existence. He looks forward to seeing her, having his dinner with her, and it is obvious that Ethan is attracted to Mattie. Even though nothing romantic occur, Ethan becomes jealous when Mattie ha seven themost innocent interactions with other men. When Zeena decides that Mattie must leave their home, Ethan cannot bear to see this happen.
Throughout this very short novel, under 140 pages ,the reader gets the sense that Ethan's mysterious accident when he was in his 20's will not be the only tragedy that will occur in this story. Doom and gloom are almost a constant presence. Without giving away significant details, for those who have not read the book, I'll just say that I was disappointed by Ethan, and I detested Zeena. I realize that this story was set in the 19th century, but I just could not imagine living day in and day out in a hopeless, loveless marriage, even if that was what many people in that situation did back then.
My overall impression was that the writing was very good in this novel, but I did not love the story. I was glad I read it, but was also glad that it wasn't a longer story. It was just too depressing for me.