Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome" is a timeless classic that explores the complexities of human relationships, the destructive nature of loneliness, and the consequences of making choices that go against one's own moral code. The novel is set in a small, fictional New England town called Starkfield, where the titular character, Ethan Frome, is a man trapped in a loveless marriage and a life of bleakness and despair.
The novel is structured in several parts, each one progressing the plot forward and revealing more about the characters and their motivations.
Part I: The Introduction
The novel opens with an unnamed narrator, who is a young engineer working on a job in Starkfield, encountering Ethan Frome during a winter storm. The narrator is struck by Frome's physical appearance, which is described as "ruined" and "tortured," and decides to inquire further into his story.
Part II: The Flashback
The second part of the novel is a flashback that takes us back twenty-four years earlier, when Ethan Frome was a young man who had just inherited his family's farm. He falls in love with his cousin, Mattie Silver, who has come to live with him and his wife, Zeena, as a caregiver. Frome is torn between his duty to his sickly wife and his desire for Mattie.
Part III: The Tragic Collision
In this part of the novel, the tension between Frome, Mattie, and Zeena reaches its climax. Zeena, realizing that Frome is in love with Mattie, decides to send her away. Frome and Mattie, desperate to stay together, attempt to commit suicide by sledding into a tree. The accident leaves Mattie paralyzed and Frome disfigured.
Part IV: The Aftermath
The final part of the novel takes place twenty years after the accident. The narrator discovers that Frome and Mattie are still living together in poverty, cared for by Zeena. Frome is bitter and broken, resigned to a life of misery and regret. The novel ends with the narrator leaving Starkfield, haunted by the tragic story of Ethan Frome.
In conclusion, "Ethan Frome" is a masterpiece of American literature that delves into the darkest corners of the human psyche. It is a cautionary tale about the dangers of giving in to one's desires and the high cost of betraying one's own moral code. The novel's haunting imagery and tragic characters will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.