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Ethan Frome | Study Guide

Edith Wharton

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Ethan Frome | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • Winter, late 1800s

    Ethan's parents die, and he marries Zeena.

  • 6 years later

    Mattie arrives to care for Zeena; Ethan develops feelings for her.

  • 1 year later

    Ethan picks Mattie up from the dance.

    Chapter 1
  • The next day

    Zeena leaves town to visit a new doctor.

    Chapter 3
  • That evening

    Mattie and Ethan share their "romantic" but awkward dinner.

    Chapter 4
  • The next day

    Zeena fires Mattie and discovers the broken pickle dish.

    Chapter 7
  • The following day

    Ethan considers running away with Mattie.

    Chapter 8
  • That night

    Ethan and Mattie's suicide attempt is botched, critically injuring them.

    Chapter 9
  • 24 years later

    The narrator visits Starkfield and learns Ethan's tragic story.


Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Prologue During a cold, bleak winter in Starkfield, Massachusetts, an unnamed narrator describes how he came to know Ethan Frome,... Read More
Chapter 1 It is 24 years earlier. Young Ethan Frome (in his late 20s) walks quickly through the falling snow to reach the nearby c... Read More
Chapter 2 As the dancers leave the hall Ethan draws back into the shadows so he can continue watching Mattie unnoticed. He wishes ... Read More
Chapter 3 Ethan and Zeena don't speak a word to each other inside their frigid bedroom. Zeena silently takes her medicine, wraps h... Read More
Chapter 4 As soon as Zeena leaves Ethan rushes to work. He wants to complete the day's chores quickly so he can spend as much time... Read More
Chapter 5 After dinner the pair sits by the fire, just as Ethan imagined. Ethan takes his seat next to Zeena's abandoned rocking c... Read More
Chapter 6 The next morning Ethan feels joyous. He can't explain why he's so happy, but the previous night gives him a clear vision... Read More
Chapter 7 Ethan calls to Zeena upstairs to say dinner is ready, but she doesn't come down. He finds her sitting by the window in t... Read More
Chapter 8 Rather than be with Zeena that evening Ethan retires to his private "office"—a tiny room similar in size to a closet—eve... Read More
Chapter 9 Daniel Byrne, the man Zeena arranged to transport Mattie's belongings to the train station, is waiting at the house by t... Read More
Epilogue The narration returns to present day, with the narrator entering Ethan Frome's house on the night of the snowstorm. He h... Read More
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