Many times in people’s lives they are faced with big decisions that revolve around two ideas of success, following the rules and securing their future within their society, or going outside their comfort zone to purse their dreams. In Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, Ethan wants to have a secure future in his town but desires a more intellectual profession and passionate spouse. There is a sense of stability in having a reliable job, likeability, and a perception by other as well off. In Ethan Frome this is expressed: “After his father’s death it had taken time to get his head above water, and he did not want Andrew Hale or, anyone else in Starkfeild, to think he was going under again”. (Wharton 40)
Although these features of society are consolatory, it must be realized that first and foremost should come the discovery of one’s self and what will ultimately make them happy. An individual’s career struggles tend to depend on this decision. They must choose between a safe job at a desk with acceptance by government benefits and local society, or chase their passion without any support. The decision for security is often to be part of a prestigious company that is praised by society, or in Ethan's case, a man sticking to his family business in the eyes of a small town. However this sense of security is often a fabrication. The job presents itself as protected and reliable, which most people long for, but in that context the security is for the job itself rather than the
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Edith Wharton, author of the novel Ethan Frome, speaks through her narrator to tell the ironically realistic tale of a poor, wishful New England farmer, who quickly realizes that his desire for happiness is futile. Ethan Frome’s acquaintances in town describe him as a man who has lived in the small town of Starkfield, Massachusetts for “too many winters,” yet Ethan is only fifty-two years old (Wharton 10). As the narrator relates the “tale of unremitting isolation, loneliness, intellectual starvation, and mental despair,” it is obvious that Ethan’s suffering is something “neither poverty nor physical suffering could have put there” (Faust 817; Wharton 13). The misery from which Ethan suffers is the heartbreak over the unaccomplished dreams of his past. In Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome, the author examines the effects of reality on the fulfillment of the dreams of the characters and the narrator through social conventions, isolation, and fatalism.
In Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome, setting is an important element. The setting greatly influences the characters, transportation, and activities.
“There was no way out- none. He was a prisoner for life, and now his one ray of light to be extinguished”(Wharton 29). Miserable routines caused by terrible occurrences trappes Ethan Frome every single day. Edith Wharton opposes the idea of following any routine. Wharton expresses that routines and cycles prevent a person from expressing their own desires or achieving their personal goals in life. These cycles prohibit a person from seeing changes within their environment and possible opportunities that could improve their life. Even if a person breaks free from a routine, an endless amount of reasons exist to pull them back in. Ethan Frome momentarily escapes from his daily routine to pursue his education, but not far into this break he has to return in order to help his family. Ethan Frome somehow found a way out of his miserable routine, but failed to take that exit; resulting in a life much worse than before. Finding a way out seems like a reasonable solution to escape bad situations, but taking such a great risk to completely change one’s entire life, seems nearly impossible for any citizens of Starkfield. In the novella, Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton exemplifies how routines deny a person from reaching their full potential through the constant pull Ethan and other members of Starkfield receive to follow their normal, average routine and not follow their desires.
Felipe Armesto once said, “Every hero is somebody else’s villain”. Every individual who considers someone to be a hero can also be portrayed as a villain. In the novel, Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton she portrays her male protagonist as both a hero and a villain. As a result, the reader can view the plot as any other human who can make mistakes. Ethan Frome a tragic hero whose greatest challenge is finding true happiness in his life. This observation presents the question: how can an individual play both roles where someone could feel sympathy for him, but also show contempt? It is this emotional reaction that the reader has for the protagonist that makes this more appreciable by a contemporary audience.
Many people oppose society due to the surroundings that they face and the obstacles that they encounter. Set in the bleak winter landscape of New England, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is the story of a poor, lonely man, his wife Zeena, and her cousin Mattie Silver. Ethan the protagonist in this novel, faces many challenges and fights to be with the one he really loves. Frome was trapped from the beginning ever since Mattie Silver came to live with him and his wife. He soon came to fall in love with her, and out of love with his own wife. He was basically trapped in the instances of his life, society’s affect on the relationship, love, poverty, illness, disability, and life.
In Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, failure to reach one’s potential causes mental and physical wear. Ethan’s life exemplifies this concept. He is stuck in Starkfield where he does not want to be, living in poverty when he is capable of so much more. He must pay for Zeena’s medical expenses and help her with housekeeping, while also maintaining the farm.
In Edith Wharton’s novel, Ethan Frome, one major critical theory revolves around the psychological criticism. The novel revolves around this critical theory because Wharton wanted the reader to observe how the setting becomes dependent on the emotional state of the character and vice versa. Throughout the novel, Wharton makes changes to the environment to represent Ethan’s fondness for certain characters. On the contrary, Wharton displays how the setting directly influences Ethan’s mental state. As the reader perceives this influence that each character has on Ethan Frome, they can develop an understanding of the relationships established in the novel. This critical theory will be expressed throughout the literary analysis paper, specifically in the Novel Summary section and Literary Criticism sections. The following text will analyze the drastic changes in the environment and compare it to Ethan’s mental state.
Edith Wharton utilizes multiple literary devices in Ethan Frome to convey different meanings for the readers to decipher. She exercises the use of symbolism the most throughout this novel. Ethan Frome is the story of a man trapped in his marriage while falling for his wife's caretaker and cousin. This complicated relationship and its many tense situations, allows Wharton to dive into different scenarios and symbolic meanings. The most notable uses of symbolism occurs during Ethan and Mattie’s first night together.
Throughout your life and possibly school there has been difficult obstacles you have to get through in order to be a better person, but “dealing with obstacles is a crucial part of being successful in life” (“The Psychological Response to Obstacles.”). Although not only are there obstacles in school but also in love stories. This is the kind of love Edith Wharton chose to write about in her book "Ethan Frome. " Where the characters, Ethan Frome and Mattie Silver, experienced love but were forbidden to have due the fact that they were each other’s in-law. The love between Ethan and Mattie creates the struggle to overcome obstacles.
In the novel Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton uses words and symbolism to convey the deeper feelings that the characters cannot themselves express. The symbolism in the novel ranges from the sled that ultimately disfigures Ethan and paralyzes Mattie to symbols of death that foreshadow not literal death but the tragedy of the story. Color symbolism is a major literary tool used throughout Ethan Frome to enrich the story and show who the characters really are. White in the story is in a sense used to show the sterile life of Ethan and just how badly his dreams have become buried like underlying life gets buried under a mountain of snow. A major color used throughout the novel though is the color red.
Within Ethan Frome is a yearning for change, freedom, and life. Starkfield is the environmental embodiment of stagnancy and monotony. Why does Frome stay connected to an environment with such a bleak outlook in spite of his ambition? He stays because he is needed. His true hope is to leave the town in pursuit of an education and a city lifestyle but he is bound to his mother and father, his farm, and his marriage. Frome holds himself to a heroic standard in his duty to those who depend on him, ultimately sacrificing his happiness and his future to support others when he is called upon.
The most universal goal every human has in common is the pursuit of happiness or “creation or construction of happiness” (Achor, 78). To be able to fulfill this wish of becoming happy, people often think the key to achieving happiness is success. In the book, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, he debunks this theory of success leading to happiness by illustrating the reverse theory of success. Through dozens of studies and experiments as forms of evidence, the author argues that an individual needs to achieve happiness in order to be truly successful. Achor 's argument is valid in that happiness should come before success because there is a clear advantage to being successful in an individual’s work life, personal sphere, and liveliness if they are happy first and foremost.
The famous philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated that “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” The world is full of people who are conformists as well as people who stand for themselves and follow their own values. Emerson explains that by being yourself you are already part of something great. However, the question still lingers: Which is the real cause of genuine happiness? There have been many claims argued by various sources, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ursula Le Guin’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk titled “Connected, but alone?”. All have come to a consensus
To understand and attain knowledge is a key factor in achieving happiness. However, in order to pursue happiness, one must understand the implications of knowledge and understanding as because reality is all about what we make of
Human beings have a need for self-actualization that involves growing towards courage, kindness, knowledge, love, honesty, and unselfishness. When we fulfill this need, we feel serene, joyful, filled with zest, sometimes euphoric, and generally happy. When we act contrary to our need for self-actualization, we experience anxiety, despair, boredom, shame, emptiness and are generally unable to enjoy ourselves. (Singer 327-328).