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How does Wharton use setting, imagery and symbols in the novel Ethan Frome?

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How does Wharton use setting, imagery and symbols in the novel ?Ethan Frome?? Ethan Frome is a remarkable novel written by Edith Wharton in 1911. An unnamed narrator, who has come to Starkfield, Massachusetts, on a business trip, narrates the story. He recounts the events that had taken place 24 years ago through various sources such his neighbor and through his imagination, and comes across a very intriguing stories related to the main characters, Ethan, Zeena and Mattie. Through this essay I will make an attempt to show how setting, imagery and symbols have been employed by Wharton to make her novel look very realistic and interesting. Starkfield is a place that remains covered in snow all the year round. It is shown by Wharton as a rough place that lies ?under a sheet of snow perpetually renewed from the pale skies.? the narrator too observes, "when the storms of February had pitched their white tents about the devoted village and the wild cavalry of March winds had charged down ...read more.


surface.? In other words it can be said that by creating the images of bitter winters and snow, Wharton thrusts a veil of isolation ad detachment on the existence of Ethan. She creates the image of a man who loses to a thing as fragile as snow. To the narrator, the "diminished dwelling is the image of his own shrunken body." The writer creates another imagery with referring to the darkness of Starkfield - a darkness that can be identified with Ethan. For example Ethan hides him in the shadows while watching Mattie dance, and wishes if he could ?stand there with her all night in the blackness.? Wharton has created a number of images of warmth and brightness also while referring to Mattie; images of frozenness with regards to Ethan; image of soullessness with regards to Zeena. For example the name of Mattie Silver refers to brightness of not only her body but also of her spirit. ...read more.


But the moment it is broken, it symbolizes something destructive coming in the way to their matrimony. There are other symbols, which come at the climax of the story such as the elm tree and the sled. The elm tree is a symbol of the ?forbidden fruit?, and the borrowed sled is a symbol that their presumption to die together is a vain hope. Thus it can be said that Wharton?s novel reaches the height of literary success through her settings, and her use of figurative devices such as imagery and symbolism. The selection of Starkfield as the setting place of her novel gives her ample opportunities to dwell on the themes of loneliness and isolation in the novel. By creating the image of Starkfield as a lonely and inaccessible place, and using it as a symbol for the existence of the protagonist Ethan she weaves a tragic story where success and failure run hand in hand. ...read more.

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