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Encyclopedia > Ethan Frome
Ethan Frome
Cover of first edition of Ethan Frome
Author Edith Wharton
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Scribner's
Publication date 1911
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 195 pp

Ethan Frome is a novel that was released in 1911 by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Edith Wharton. It is set in turn-of-the-century New England in the fictitious town of Starkfield, Massachusetts. The novel was adapted into a film in 1993. Image File history File links Ethan_Frome_first_edition_cover. ... Edith Wharton (January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937) was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer. ... For other uses, see Country (disambiguation). ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... A publisher is a person or entity which engages in the act of publishing. ... Charles Scribners Sons is a publisher that was founded in 1846 at the Brick Church Chapel on New Yorks Park Row. ... See also: 1910 in literature, other events of 1911, 1912 in literature, list of years in literature. ... Hardcover books A hardcover (or hardback or hardbound) is a book bound with rigid protective covers (typically of cardboard covered with cloth, heavy paper, or sometimes leather). ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... ISBN redirects here. ... See also: 1910 in literature, other events of 1911, 1912 in literature, list of years in literature. ... No prize was awarded in 1917. ... Edith Wharton (January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937) was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer. ... This article is about the region in the United States of America. ... This article is about the U.S. state. ... Year 1993 (MCMXCIII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display full 1993 Gregorian calendar). ...


Plot introduction

In the first and last chapters, the novel is told by an unnamed narrator. However, in all the others it is told in the third person. The novel notably makes a motif of subtle uses of vibrancy (such as a red glass pickle dish) against the stark, cold background of a Massachusetts winter.

Plot summary

An unnamed narrator recounts an encounter with Ethan Frome in the wintry town of Starkfield, and the story of Frome's life. Ethan grew up with a desire to escape Starkfield for bigger cities, and also to pursue a career in science. His schooling was cut short, however, when he was forced to return home to tend to his ailing parents. He met Zenobia (nicknamed Zeena) when she came to the Frome house to care for his mother. When his mother died in winter, Ethan hastily asked Zeena to stay with him. He and Zeena eventually married, although it seemed to be more of a marriage of convenience rather than one of true love. Soon after, Zeena became a burden on Ethan with her hypochondriac illnesses and constant complaining about their situation in Starkfield. A marriage of convenience (plural marriages of convenience) is a marriage contracted for reasons other than the traditional reasons of love or family. ... Hypochondria (sometimes hypochondriasis) is the unfounded belief that one is suffering from a serious illness. ...

Ethan's tedious way of life continues for several years, until a young woman named Mattie Silver is sent by relatives of Zeena to their home for free housekeeping duty. Mattie needs the housing because she has been left penniless and an orphan; despite this, she has a youthful and vibrant personality that acts as a foil for Zeena's shrewishness and ill temperament. This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Ethan finds Mattie's liveliness to be a bright spot in his otherwise humdrum existence. He is attracted to her, but still feels an obligation to remain with his wife Zeena. To compensate for this, he embarks on a chivalrous affair with Mattie; he takes every opportunity to spend time with her, but never fully consummates his passion beyond a kiss. Bors Dilemma - he chooses to save a maiden rather than his brother Lionel Chivalry[1] is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood. ...

The comfort he seeks in Mattie's company is threatened when Zeena says that she will replace Mattie with a hired housemaid. During the time between this announcement and Mattie's leaving, Ethan considers leaving his wife numerous times to elope with Mattie, but every time he lacks the confidence to rebel against the morals of his being and community. To elope, most literally, merely means to run away. ...

On the day of Mattie's departure, emotion overcomes Ethan, and he tells Mattie that he wants to live with her forever. They decide to take a final sled ride down together into a bulky tree, so it will kill them instantly, rather than live the rest of their lives separated. Ethan, desperate to escape his loveless marriage and meaningless life, complies. The accident, however, fails to kill them, but paralyzes Mattie permanently and leaves Ethan barely able to walk. Paralysed redirects here. ...

After the story is told, the narrator is shown inside Ethan's home, where he finds two old women, one which complains in a whiny voice of the coldness. The whining woman turns out to be Mattie, and the other woman is a healthier Zeena who now looks after Ethan and Mattie.


The novel has been viewed negatively by some critics, such as Lionel Trilling, as lacking in moral or ethical significance. The novel, however, is somewhat autobiographical, with Ethan being analogous to Wharton, Zeena to her husband, and Mattie to her lover at the time, and it was most likely not written as a moralistic piece. Wharton's doctor had suggested that she write to get out some of her tension, and Ethan Frome is possibly her response. Lionel Trilling (July 4, 1905 – November 5, 1975) was an American literary critic, author, and teacher. ...


The novel was adapted into a film in 1993. Directed by John Madden, it stars Liam Neeson as Ethan and Joan Allen as Zeena. Year 1993 (MCMXCIII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display full 1993 Gregorian calendar). ... John Philip Madden (born April 8, 1949) is an English director of theatre, film, television, and radio. ... William John Liam Neeson OBE (born June 7, 1952) is an Academy Award-nominated Northern Irish actor. ... Joan Allen in a scene from The Contender Joan Allen (b. ...


On The Simpsons Lisa receives the first book in a series of Classic Literature and states "Finally a copy of Ethan Frome to call my own." Simpsons redirects here. ...

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Ethan Frome

  Results from FactBites:
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Search, Read, Study, Discuss. (1070 words)
Set against the bleak winter landscape of New England, Ethan Frome is the story of a poor farmer, lonely and downtrodden, his wife Zeena, and her cousin, the enchanting Mattie Silver.
Ethan was a bad character to begin with, but in my opinion, he would never had tried to kill himself.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton was not a good book to me. I was able to put it down, and I was able to fall asleep mid-sentence.
GradeSaver: ClassicNote: Ethan Frome Study Guide - Full Summary and Analysis (9506 words)
In Ethan Frome, the influence of this Darwin-inspired outlook is undeniable.
Ethan was forced to return to the farm because of poverty: after his father, someone had to take care of his mother, and they lacked the funds to hire help or support Ethan's studies.
Ethan Frome is partially a reaction against portraits of rural living that romanticized poverty and farming.
  More results at FactBites »



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