Books and Movies Reviews

Ethan Frome

In the book Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton uses selective word choice when
creating her characters.It is evident that the descriptions of Mattie and of Zeena are a
relevant part of the whole that creates the meaning of the story.Wharton manipulates
one’s feelings about the two characters with the character’s actions, surroundings, and
Through most of the book, Mattie is described by words with positive
connotations.Her surroundings are almost always cheerful and warm.Her personality is
positive and bright.Wharton does this to try and make the reader feel as Ethan does
about her.When wefirst meet Mattie, she has “already wound a cherry-coloured
‘fascinator’ about her head” (p. 23).This scarf conveysMattie’s vibrant energy and the
readersfirst impression is one of a sweet and rosy young woman.Ethan’s own feelings
are used to impart the feeling of Mattie’s overall goodness.For example, “He forgot what
else he had meant to say and pressed her against him so closely that he seemed to feel her
warmth in his veins” (p. 43).These words and feelings make the reader perceive a clear
impression of Ethan’s love for Mattie.Zeena is never described with such warmth and
passion, but with dull, darkly connotative feelings and phrases.
The reader’sfirst encounter with Zeena gives the sense that she is a sick,
lonesome woman.A few pages later, she is unfavorably pictured in her bed, “her high-
boned face taking a grayish tinge from the whiteness of the pillow”(p. 28).Thesefirst
impressions are aimed to make the reader feel that Zeena is a burden to Ethan, which
contributes greatly to the meaning of the story.Later on, Ethan sees “A dead cucumber-
vine dangled from the porch like the crape streamer tied to the door for a death, and the
thought flashed through Ethan’s brain: ‘If it was there for Zeena-‘” (p. 45).This negative
sentence shows the powerful despair Ethan feel…


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