Essay on Wharton's Ethan Frome: A Psychological Novel

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Ethan Frome as A Psychological Novel

Many authors have tried to convey truths about human behavior and explain the human psyche, often unsuccessfully. Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome, is an example of a novel that succeeds in revealing truths. She fills her characters with nuances that reflect the subconscious and her setting is alive with reflected symbolism. She is able to interpret the characters actions in a way that can relate to all humans. Each word and phrase seems to be chosen so that it reflects a part of the subconscious in the characters.

Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome is an examination of the human mind, based on her use of setting to reflect emotion, characterization to show human tendencies towards chaos
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The snow and cold restate the cruelty of the characters' situations. The setting, using the bleakness of winter, "...provides a complicated time scheme through which the author could dramatically contrast the bleak existence of her characters in the present with their youthful expectations in the past." (McDowell 74). The winter scenery provides testament to things gone wrong, almost a romantic styled sympathy of nature. The color scheme used to describe the setting mirrored the desolation of the character's feelings. "The black shade of the varnum spruces becomes gray under the stars" (Wharton 34). The gray of the backdrop symbolized the disturbance between what was right and what was best for Ethan. . "There is no sharp line between the normal and abnormal psyche, nor between the real and supernatural. In the vast remote area, covered by snow, the sharp line between psychic dislocation and spirit world dissolves" (McDowell 85). The absence of a "sharp line" was shown with the used of an intermediate gray tone, which was seen recurring thorough out the novel. There was no right or wrong in his case, hence the blend of the two colors, black and white, into gray.

Wharton even used actual physical objects to represent characters from the novel, such as "blighted apple trees" which have bent from the weight of snow. Ethan is symbolically the apple tree because of his physical deformities as well as the mental burdens he has faced during his
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