The Book ‘Ethan Frome’ by Edith Wharton
A Scholarly Summary of the Literary Aspects
The narrative keenly illustrates a broken social institution and an apparent disconnect of emotions. Scholar Li (116) depicts Frome’s life as a domestic misfortune characterized by death and a sense of love insecurity. She describes Ethan as a desperate person who is anxious, self-abased, and lonely due to unforgiving life turnout. Ethan’s life is intertwined between life’s unfair outcomes of death and a broken dream. He had a dream to finish college, be rich and live a happy life, but his ambitions were unsuccessful. Frome is nostalgic about the separation from his loving parents and the emotional trauma of being engaged in a loveless marriage. He marries a wife with an alternating temperament and annoying anger. Zeena is irritable since everything about her is complaints and quarrels. Consequently, their lack of heart-to-heart communication deprives the couple’s mutual affection (117). In this narrative, the social institution of marriage is disillusioned because of the separation of feelings and responsibility. The wife is sickly with emotional alterations that subject the husband to misery and a need to run away.
Again, alienation, despair, and loss are illustrated by disconnecting feelings leading to losing a family. Ethan feels a thriving emotional parting between him and his wife. He anticipates the new dawn with another younger, healthy, and energizing lady like Mattie (Li 118). Zeena is also alienated emotionally, and her responsibility as a wife is broken. She is depicted as an evil woman who suffocates her husband in misery and emotional trauma. Their marriage is deteriorating with unrewarding hard work, excess responsibility, and irrespective of gender roles. Ethan is chained in an alienated emotional complex and a devastating state of marriage that requires him to withdraw. However, the narrator describes a woman who cannot uphold marriage and cannot independently live without a man. It raises concern on the issue of women objectification, isolation, and social entrapment of marriage in American society (Yalçın 49). Therefore, the social institution of marriage seems to cultivate progressive emotional loss in men like Ethan and the gender responsiveness of women like Zeena.
In the naturalistic nature of events, society has predetermined gender roles that dictate people’s behavior and interpersonal relationships. Social norms expect a married man to embrace his marriage and care for his wife regardless of his feelings. At some point in the narrative, Mrs. Hale praised Ethan for being patient and taking care of his sickly wife (Li 118). Although he was a hardworking man, Frome had abandoned his wife and pursued his new profound love with Mattie. Ethan’s self-expression decisions were ambiguous from a moral and social perspective. On the other hand, a woman is expected to be submissive to her husband. She is responsible for satisfying her husband’s emotional needs, which subjects her to gender objectivity (Yalçın 46). Zeena is an example of many marginalized and objectified women in society, explaining their lives’ complexities. The social norms and codes dictate women’s traditional gender roles that lead to their entrapment to physical pain and emotional distress.
A Reflection on the Way Findings Affects Work Interpretation
The aspects of domestic misfortune, despair, and gender objectification in ‘Ethan Frome’ are crucial aspects that help the reader interpret the author’s main intention of the work. Domestic misfortune is well depicted through the broken and unpromising marriage between Zeena and Ethan. Wharton’s depiction of broken marriage helps the reader see the wider picture of broken social institutions in American society. Many marriages are broken due to emotional withdrawal and failed gender roles. Again, women are positioned by society to be objects for men’s satisfaction in marriage. They are perceived responsible for their husbands’ broken marriages and alienated emotions. Consequently, Zeena’s characteristic nature makes her the opposite of her husband and depicts her as the narrative’s villain. She is older than Ethan, a complaining whine with a fine vindictive sense. Zeena is an example of many women the narrator pictures as sources of despair and misfortunes in a man’s life. Therefore, Zeena is the perfect contrast to her husband in behavior and discipline.
The characterization helps the reader interpret differing emotional entitlement and define gender roles. Ethan is hardworking, responsible, and the proper contrast to his wife. Ethan anticipates ending the marriage, eloping with Mattie, and starting afresh. That asserts that a man is entitled to more emotional comfort than a woman in this narrative. A reader may interpret that a man should seek his heart’s desires and forget his wife’s needs. Again, Frome is a man that the narrator portrays as perfect compared to the evil wife, Zeena. However, a woman is entrapped in gender roles of being a responsible wife to her husband’s needs. Women’s status is weighed according to their relationship with men. Zeena is traditionally subjected to biased gender roles, and her emotional distress is ignored. She is a woman used to help the reader interpret the role of women in society and man’s life.
Yalçın, Olgahan Bakşi. “Wharton’s Socially Entrapped Women: Ethan Frome, summer and The House of Mirth.” ICGR 2018 International Conference on Gender Research. Academic Conferences and publishing limited, 2018, pp. 46-51
Li, Na. “Naturalistic Color in Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.” Theory & Practice in Language Studies Vol. 4, No. 1, (2014), pp. 116-120