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Essay/Term paper: Ethan frome: life as a failure

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Literature Essays

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Ethan Frome: Life As A Failure

Ethan Frome, the main character in the book entitled Ethan Frome, by Edith
Wharton, has many complex problems going on at the same time. His family has
died and he has a wife that is continually sick, and the only form of happiness
he has is from his wife's cousin Mattie. This, however, at times proves to be
hard because of Ethan's wifes interference. Nothing seems to be going in Ethan's
favor. The main theme of the book is failure, and this is shown through marrying
his wife, not being able to stand up to his wife, and his involvement concerning
the "smash up." The first way failure is shown in the book is through the
marriage of Ethan and his wife. He married her because she had tried to help his
mother recover from an illness, and once his mother died he could not bear the
thought of living in the house alone. His wife was seven years his senior and
always seemed to have some kind of illness. It seemed all she ever did was
complain, and he resented this because it stifled his growing soul. Since his
wife was continuously ill, and her cousin needed a place to stay, they took her
in to help around the house. Ethan took an immediate propensity to her cousin,
Mattie, because she brought a bright light upon his dismal day. He seemed to
have found someone that cared for him, was always happy and could share his
youth, unlike his sickly wife who always nagged him. He longed to be with Mattie,
however he had loyalty to his wife. Being married to the wrong person proved to
be Ethan's first failure. Ethan's second failure was not being able to stand up
against his wife. His wife claimed that a new doctor said that she was extremely
sick, and needed more help around the house. She told him without any discussion
that Mattie had to go. Ethan could not find the words to make her alter her
decision. His wife also decided that Mattie had to leave the next day itself and
Ethan could not do anything about it. It was stated in the book that his wife
had the upper hand in the house by the line "Now she [his wife] had mastered him
[Ethan] and he obeyed her." Ethan just could not find the right things to say
and it was because of his failure of not being able to stand up to his wife, he
was going to lose the only thing that made him happy. Ethan's last failure was
the way he modified his and Mattie's lives regarding the "smash up." He so
desperately wanted to run away with Mattie, but he could not because his
practical sense told him it was not feasible to do so. Mattie wanted so
desperately to be with Ethan, that she suggested in order to stay together
forever, was to die together. It was Ethan's job to steer into the tree with the
sled so that it looked like an accidental death instead of suicide. Instead of
running square into the tree, he did not hit the tree right and it did not kill
either of them. Instead it just injured them , and these injuries stayed with
them forever. In this way Ethan had his last failure in not exceeding to die
with his love, instead he had to live with the guilt from his wife, the injured
Mattie, and broken dreams. In these three ways, of marrying the wrong person,
not being able to stand up to his wife, and incidents that come from the smash
up, proves that the main theme of the book is failure. It seemed that everything
Ethan tried to do, worked against his favor. With all the incidents that
happened it seemed inevitable that his life would always be a string of failure.


 

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