By all accounts ethan appeared to have a mundane

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By all accounts, Ethan appeared to have a mundane existence. While he appeared to have steady work, he seemed to find himself just barely scraping by. He had taken another mortgage out on the farm and it was mentioned that he had almost nothing in savings. This is still true of many lower-middle class people in America today. Even those with manual labor and blue-collar jobs have a hard time living more than paycheck to paycheck and definitely have a hard time saving money for the future. Back then, even more so than today, one was born into a certain social class and it was difficult to advance to a higher income bracket. People such as Ethan were typically bound to carry on a family business or trade based on what their parents did before them. Rarely did people leave the small towns in which they came from- especially before the advent of cars and mass transportation. This is how Ethan Frome probably came to exist in the state that he did. 2
Ethan worked hard and performed his grueling manual labor for a living to support his home and his wife, Zenobia (Zeena) Frome. Zeena was described as a thin “sickly” woman although there is no mention of her exact ailment or symptoms. Throughout the story, she mentioned going to doctor after doctor in hopes of some sort of “cure” for her mysterious illness. This idea of a miracle cure in a bottle is not so dissimilar from Americans of today who are seem to be constantly looking for pills to help with everything from weight loss to depression to cancer. Since medicine was not as highly regulated as it is today, there are talks of Zeena ordering “medicine” from companies in hopes of finding a cure for whatever she had. Today in America, people order weight loss supplements, shakes, and herbs from infomercials and the Internet all the time hoping that something will make them skinnier/healthier/more youthful. There are also unethical people who will profit off of this desire of Americans and try to sell them useless herbs as a miracle cure. It was around the beginning of the 20 th century that the term “snake oil salesman” came into existence for the men who tried to sell snake oil as a miracle cure to naïve customers. Zeena was a very unhappy woman. There are hints throughout the book that Zeena was clearly not satisfied with her station in life. She often reminded Ethan that she needed help around the house. She usually based this claim on something that a “doctor” had told her. Again, it is unclear if she was even seeing real medical professionals or what they said to her. Ethan did not accompany her on any of her appointments during the story. Zeena is portrayed as a character who dresses in drab colors and whines and complains quite frequently. It came to pass that Zeena’s cousin, a young woman named Mattie (Matt), needed a place to stay. Her father had been an unscrupulous “medical” salesman before his untimely death. Unfortunately, he had died penniless, having lost not only his money, but also the money 3
of many of his relatives who had invested in his business. Mattie was 20 years old and found

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