LITR221 WELCH ESSAY - 1 Dr Kenyetta Thigpen LITR221 Civil...

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Dr. Kenyetta ThigpenLITR221: Civil War To Present23 November 2014Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is a romantic tragedy novella; many could argue that the tale is a Romeo and Juliet depiction gone wrong. The story is set in the fictional wintery dreary town of Starkfield, Massachusetts. The main character Ethan Frome is married to Zenobia “Zeena” Frome, however Ethan is in love with Mattie Silver, Zeena’s cousin. Torn between his traditional American values of staying married to Zeena and his hopes and dreams, which include being with Mattie, his lover; the protagonist Ethan Frome endures a tragic metamorphosis. Throughout the novel, Ethan is left bitter and regretful, yet he remains uniquely American through a compilation of interwoven characteristics, which he displays in his strong endurance, his ability to survive poverty, and his moral struggle. In the novel the point of view is told from two perspectives. The first part is told from that of a first-person narrator, and the second part is told from a third-person narrator. In the opening chapter, the (first-person) narrator speaks with Harmon Gow, a member of the Starkfield community about how Ethan cared for his ailing mother and father during their last days, as well as his hypochondriacal wife. “Somebody had to stayand care for the folks. There warn’t ever anybody but Ethan. Fust his father—then his mother—then his wife” (Wharton 6). Here it is apparent, that Ethan displays a strong sense of endurance when he is left to care for his family. Additionally, this simple quote displays how Edith Wharton takes advantage of literary language, using the dialect of Harmon Gow to exhibit the era and geographical location of the characters. Digressing, American society is built on strong cultural values, some of which are distinctly visible in1
many individuals such as the protagonist in this novel. Ethan could have easily left the harshness of Starkfield, had he not felt morally compelled due to his belief that his destiny was pre-determined to stay. In American society, dating back to the 1800’s people would usually put their ailing and or elderly parents in assisted living facilities called poorhouses (Steven). Ethan’s life seems to be defined by his selflessness to care for others, which in essence is a unique quality to possess.

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