Ethan Frome


AP English 3


Sometimes authors toy with the emotions of the reader and his perception of right and wrong by the way characters are described. In a well‑written essay, relate how the character Zeena Frome is in the right and the character Ethan and Mattie are in the wrong. Relate how characterization (the description and creation of a character and his or her traits) serves to make the reader despise Zeena and pity Ethan and Mattie, despite the fact that Zeena is the one being wronged.





In Edith Wharton’s novel, Ethan Frome, Wharton uses a number of literary techniques that toy with the emotions of the reader. The main story is written in an omniscient "third‑person" point of view which enables the reader to understand the thoughts and feelings of all characters. However, Wharton is very conservative on how this devise is used, causing the reader to develop a biased, one‑sided opinion. This becomes evident as Ethan and Mattie develop a relationship while Ethan is still married to Zeena. Even though Zeena is being wronged, the animosity that was built up prior to this incident makes the reader feel as if the relationship between Ethan and Mattie is appropriate. Although Wharton tries to convey that Ethan is right, there are still numerous reasons why Zeena is the one who is truly doing the right thing.


Initially, it is obvious from the very beginning that Ethan did not marry Zeena for love. After Ethan’s father passed away, Zeena took care of Ethan’s mother. After Ethan’s mother passed away, Ethan could not bare the thought of being alone so he married Zeena. He selfishly decided to disregard the feelings of love from Zeena just to satisfy his own fear of abandonment. This is not only unfair to Zeena but it is also the root of her unhappiness. Throughout the book Zeena is described as "sickly" and Zeena is blamed for the lack of communication between her and her husband. A deeper analysis of this issue would show the reader that the fault of the lack of communication does not lie with Zeena, but with Ethan. When Ethan got married to Zeena he made a scared vow to love her. When Zeena found out that he had broken that vow she became devastated. The way in which this novel was composed deceives the reader into thinking that Ethan was the victim when in fact his suffering was his own doing and his actions caused Zeena pain as well.


Furthermore, Zeena was wronged when Ethan cheated on her with Mattie. Ethan devoted all of his attention to his lustful thoughts of Mattie while completely ignoreing Zeena. Moreover, Wharton used vivid imagery and other literary techniques to convince the reader that Ethan’s impure thoughts were justified when describing Zeena. When describing Zeena, Wharton used words associated with winter while descriptions of Mattie were springtime comparisons. Throughout the book, Mattie appears to be the happy, appealing opposite of Zeena. Wharton also stresses the opinion that Zeena continuously complains about being sick, which causes her to be less appealing physically. This emphasis also makes the reader dislike Zeena because society has made us dislike ugliness in the presence of beauty. Such thinking has taught us to love what is pleasant and beautiful on magazine covers and ignore the real people who don’t look perfect. It is further inferred that her vindictive nature causes Ethan to compare the dead plant in the front of their home to his hopes of Zeena’s death. The listed examples are ways that the author tries to deceive the reader into thinking that Ethan is right for cheating on Zeena. However, there are many ways that this theory can be proven incorrect.


Another way Zeena was wronged was the fact she was lied to. Ethan kept saying that he was getting money for lumber when he truly wasn’t. He used that as an excuse to spend more time with Mattie and to avoid Zeena. The issue of communication becomes another implication when Ethan avoids her to spend time with Mattie. He further attempted to deceive Zeena by trying to hide the broken plate by cluing it together; however, he was caught when Zeena found the plate before he had