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Ethan Frome

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How are the main characters in Ethan Frome trapped and confined by circumstances? Ethan Frome is a novel about the tragedy of three lives trapped together by circumstances. They live in an isolated town called Starkfield. The word Starkfield means harsh, severe and barren. The people who live there lack communication with one another. They live in the mountainous area, which becomes cut off by snow in winter. 'The sluggish pulse of Starkfield' The word 'sluggish' indicates the slow pace of life. The winter is the dullest season for the community of Starkfield. Hardly any trees can be seen in this season, because ' it's all snowed under'. The boughs of trees bent inward from the burden of snow, sheds are sagged under their white load. 'White load' is a metaphor for the word 'snow'. The burden of snow is causing the sheds to sag. Ethan Frome is the main character of the novel. The story about his life is both sad and compelling. His story starts from the time when Ethan is a man of age not more than fifty two and lives in the bleak house of his parents. '...to see in the diminished dwelling the image of his own shrunken body' The house reflects on Ethan's shrunken body. It also reflects negatively on Ethan's life. Ethan bore all misfortunes held within it, lost his parents and still couldn't improve his situation. The house shows total starvation of love and happiness. ...read more.


Ethan also feels ashamed to ask Ned Hale for money as he is a man of pride and dignity. When Hale refuses, Ethan cannot admit that he is broke and his pride makes the matters even worse. Even though Ethan has a tough life, he is an honest man. Ethan couldn't take an advantage of Mrs Hale and obtain and advance payment of money for his planned flight with Mattie, notwithstanding how he longed to be with her. All the characters of the novel want better life. Ethan wanted to finish the college and had dreams of becoming an engineer in a large city. All his dreams were unrealised due to his parents' death and the opportunity to leave Starkfield minified. Also the image of graveyard was haunting Ethan. 'For years the quiet company mocked his restlessness, his desire for change and freedom'. We never got away how should you?' Every time Ethan was passing the graveyard the desire for a better life was gradually distinguishing. The headstones left emptiness in him for the entire life. It reminded him that one day he will join this quiet company. Mattie too was trapped. Her parents left her in destitute. They owed money and she was the one to repay. Poverty-stricken Mattie was obliged to work for the Fromes for nothing. Her situation leaves her in anguish and prison confinement. 'Where'd I go, if I did?' Mattie has nowhere to go due to circumstances. ...read more.


Ethan and Mattie's fragile relationships are shown in the quotation '...and gathering up the bits of broken glass she went out of the room as if carrying a dead body..' There is no happy ending for any characters of the novella, Mrs. Hale suggests that poor Ethan suffers the most. 'Ethan's face'd break your heart...When I see that, I think it's him that suffers the most'. His youth was followed by misfortunes and his entire situation is twice the worst it was before Mattie's arrival. His bleak image dissolves into pure darkness of his misfortunes. Ethan experiences desertion of life and is destitute of love. He is eaten away by the tragedy of his life and only the Fromes' graveyard will unburden the prison warders handcuffing his hands. At the end of the novel Mrs Hale makes a comparison between the Fromes in the farm and the Fromes in the graveyard and finds no difference between them except that women are quiet and hold their tongues. "...the way they are now, I don't see there's much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard; 'cept that down there they're all quiet, and the women have to hold their tongues." This suggests strongly that though the three characters might be physically alive, in the quality of their life they are very much like the dead. The characters in Ethan Frome are stuck in poverty, live in an isolated town without much communication. It appears that the writer describes how Ethan, Mattie and Zeena are caught in a situation of paralysis from which they cannot escape. ...read more.

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