Ethan Frome Character Analysis

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In Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, the title character, Ethan, is unhappily married to Zeena. As Zeena is sickly, her cousin Mattie comes to help out with housework. Ethan and Mattie begin a doomed love affair that ends in disaster. Ethan and Mattie attempt to conform to the expected gender roles for the early twentieth century, while Zeena bucks expectations and ends up happier for it. This shows that people are happier when they act like themselves rather than how they are expected to act. Typical males of the 1900’s roles was to provide the money supply for their family, they would also make the decisions, and ideally they should have been seen as masculine and brutish. While on the other hand, Ethan partially meets these roles, seeing…show more content…
Ethan had an idea that if she were to marry a man she was fond of the dormant instinct would wake, and her pies and biscuits become the pride of the county; but domesticity in the abstract did not interest her. At first she was so awkward that he could not help laughing at her; but she laughed with him and that made them better friends. He did his best to supplement her unskilled efforts, getting up earlier than usual to light the kitchen fire, carrying in the wood overnight, and neglecting the mill for the farm that he might help her about the house during the day. He even crept down on Saturday nights to scrub the kitchen floor after the women had gone to bed; and Zeena, one day, had surprised him at the churn and had turned away silently, with one of her queer looks.” (15). She tries hard to be a good housekeeper for Ethan and Zeena, but no matter what her work just isn’t exceptional. After the event of a precious pickle dish breaking, Mattie was sent away by Zeena. Ethan became devastated, Mattie and Ethan vowed to never spend a day apart, which left her and Ethan miserable and crippled. However, the other main female character in this book, Zeena, Ethan’s wife, was a very sorrowful woman. Her “illnesses” made her unable to do housework, and that is why Mattie was brought to Starkfield. During the book Zeena was controlling over Ethan, it was her way or no way, and she used her “illnesses” in her favor. In the book it states, “Then (Zeena) too fell

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