Irony in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton Essay examples

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Edith Wharton’s brief, yet tragic novella, Ethan Frome, presents a crippled and lonely man – Ethan Frome – who is trapped in a loveless marriage with a hypochondriacal wife, Zenobia “Zeena” Frome. Set during a harsh, “sluggish” winter in Starkfield, Massachusetts, Ethan and his sickly wife live in a dilapidated and “unusually forlorn and stunted” New-England farmhouse (Wharton 18). Due to Zeena’s numerous complications, they employ her cousin to help around the house, a vivacious young girl – Mattie Silver. With Mattie’s presence, Starkfield seems to emerge from its desolateness, and Ethan’s vacant world seems to be awoken from his discontented life and empty marriage. And so begins Ethan’s love adventure – a desperate desire to have Mattie …show more content…
When his mother, too, had fallen ill, Ethan had had no time for “convivial loiterings in the village” (Wharton 61). Once a social and admired man, Ethan now lives in a life of solitude and silence. After his mother fell ill, “the loneliness of the house grew more oppressive than that of the fields” (Wharton 61). His mother had been a talker in her day, but after her illnesses, the sound of her voice was seldom heard. When asked why, her answer would be “because [she was] listening” or “they’re talking so [loud] out there that I can’t hear you” (Wharton 61). Towards the end of her illnesses, Zenobia Pierce came to help Ethan. It was only then that Zeena’s volubility was “music in his ears”, relieving him of the “mortal silence of his long imprisonment” (Wharton 61). After his mother’s death, Ethan married Zeena, hoping to rid him of the loneliness of the farm. However, Zeena, too, eventually fell silent, and Ethan must take of her like he once did for his mother. In addition, irony also takes place during Ethan and Mattie’s first evening together. Zeena, being a hypochondriac claims that her “shooting pains” have gotten more severe and therefore must leave to Bettsbridge to see a new doctor, leaving Ethan and Mattie alone. On what should have been a romantic idyll, the evening is in fact stressful and…