Ethan Frome

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					                                    Ethan Frome
                                    Edith Wharton

“She was so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her, that the
links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate.”
                                             Edith Wharton, from The House of

    Born into a wealthy New England Family.
    She suffered from depression for many years – her writing was frowned upon by
       her family and husband.
    She moved to France in 1913 and lived there for the rest of her life – she is
       buried at Versailles.
    She was the first woman to be given an honorary doctorate degree from Yale
       University, and the first woman to be given the Gold medal of he American
       society of Arts and Letters.
    Most of her work revolves around the struggle between individual freedom and
       the role of society (a struggle she knew herself).

Frame Story:

                              Prologue Important Facts


    Takes place when America is becoming increasingly industrialized and there is
       mass migration to cities. The days of the independent farmer is coming to an
                  Important Facts Continued


1. Peristyle      19. Innocuous

2. Ether          20. Reticent

3. Undulation     21. Provocation

4. Tenuous        22. Sentient

5. Declivity      23. Querulous

6. Impudent       24. Revelry

7. Effrontery     25. Fatuity

8. Sardonic       26. Obstinate

9. Plaintive      27. Indolent

10. Lout          28. Constraint

11. Incredulous   29. Succumb

12. Repugnant     30. Abhor

13. Induce        31. Compunction

14. Sedentary     32. Inexorable

15. Flux          33. Desolate

16. Taciturn      34. Ebullition

17. Capitulate

18. Beleaguered
Wharton often uses figurative language to heighten our perception of various story
elements. Listed below are several metaphors and similes from the novel. 1.) Explain
the significance of each to the story, and 2.) Decide if they pertain to setting,
character, conflict, or the ideas behind Naturalism and explain your answer.

           1. "Starkfield emerged from its six months' siege like a starved garrison
              capitulating without quarter" (prologue).

           2. "He seemed a part of the mute, melancholy landscape, an incarnation of
              its frozen woe" (prologue).

           3. "…the coming to his house of a bit of hopeful young life was like the
              lighting of a fire on a cold hearth" (chapter 1).


1.What is the name of the town? How might this be symbolic?

2. Give a physical description of Ethan Frome.

3. How long ago was the “smash up?”

4. How does the narrator actually meet Ethan?

   1.) Describe Mattie’s character. How does she compare to Zeena?

   2.) How is Ethan different from the others in town? What qualities does he find he
       shares with Mattie?

   3.) As Ethan watches Mattie at the dance, he becomes unhappy. What causes this?

   4.) What are the “throng of disregarded hints and menaces [that] wove their cloud
       about [Ethan’s] brain” mentioned in the last line of chapter one?

   1.) Describe the effect the Frome gravestones had on Ethan as a young man. How
       do they affect him now? What is Ethan’s vision of the future?

   2.) Who asks to give Mattie a ride home? Does she accept? Why/why not?

   3.) What is missing at the back door? Why do you suppose it was gone?

   4.) Ethan “felt as if he had never before known what his wife looked like” (p. 29).
       How can this be? Explain this line.

Ch 3, 4 and 5

1. What happened to Mattie’s parents? Why did she come to live with Ethan and

2. Where is Zeena going? How does Ethan feel about her leaving? Is his reaction
   typical? Explain.

3. What does Ethan say he has to do so he’ll not have to drive Zeena to the train?

4. Has Zeena always been sickly and self-obsessed? Explain.

5. Why don’t Ethan and his wife move after they are first married?
6. Why does Ethan marry Zeena? Discuss the key characteristics of their

7. What color is predominately mentioned in chapters 4 & 5?
Give three examples:

8. What are the following symbols for?

The cat:

The pickle dish:

9. Who will Zeena blame for breaking the pickle dish?

10. Who really broke the pickle dish?

On a separate sheet of paper, explain the significance of the following
quotes about Zeena. What do the quotes illustrate about Zeena’s

--"Zenobia’s fault-finding was of the silent kind, but not the less penetrating for that."

--"…Her abrupt resolve to seek medical advice showed that, as usual, she was wholly
absorbed in her health."

 --"She chose to look down on Starkfield, but she could not have lived in a place which
looked down on her."
Does Ethan has a responsibility toward Zeena?
    Remember that Zeena promised to move away with Ethan.
    What reasons were given for her not moving away?
   What reasons were given for Ethan’s marriage to Zeena?
   How do these make you feel about Zeena? About Ethan?

Write your answer in a well-developed paragraph.
Ch 6.

1. Why is Ethan so happy the next morning?

2. What does Ethan tell Mattie he will do about the broken dish?

3. Compare this dinner scene with the night before – how is it different?

Ch. 7

1. What does Zeena tell Ethan about her illness?

2. Why does Zeena think Ethan married her?

3. What does Zeena plan to do with Mattie?

4. How does Ethan feel toward Zeena now?

5. What explanation does Ethan give Zeena for the broken pickle dish?

Ch 8 – end.

1. What does Mattie’s note say?

2. What does Ethan contemplate doing?

3. What does Zeena want to check before Mattie packs? Why?

4. What does Mrs. Hale say to Ethan in the store? How does this stop Ethan from
   asking for the money?
5. How does Zeena react to Mattie’s Departure? How is this “out of character” for
   Zeena? What do her actions suggest about the true nature of her “illness?”

6. Ethan stands up to Zeena and refuses to stay home and let Jotham drive Mattie to
   the station. Why is this ironic?

7. What decision does the couple make at the end of chapter 9? Who first suggests it?
   Why does it seem like the only logical conclusion?

8. Why is it significant that it was dusk or twilight?

9. What is ironic about the following quote?

           “I could go down this hill with my eyes tied!”

10. In the epilogue, the narrator steps aside and lets someone else tell the rest of
    Ethan’s story. Who gives us the ending?

11. Discuss the significance of the following quote:

       “And I say, if she‟d ha‟ died, Ethan might ha‟ lived; and 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 got to hold their tongues.”
Ethan Frome   By
        Edith Wharton