Books and Movies Reviews

The True Villian in Ethan Frome

Edith Wharton'sEthan Frome was a novel marred by tragic irony. Its main characters, Ethan, Mattie, and Zeena, are each consigned to a lifetime of misery and despair. They have no one else to blame but the evil villain of the story, which is a character that has drained the will of all who encounter it. This character is none other than the vile town of Starkfield itself.
Starkfield is a fictitious town located in the state of Massachusetts. In the introductory chapter Harmon Gow, a village stalwart, remarks to the narrator: "All the smart ones got away." Each year it is host to harsh winters and below average summers. Settings like these have been known to drive people to the brink. That is how it effects the main characters with Zenna in particular.
After inhabiting Starkfield for a number of years she became a haggard woman whom Ethan disgusted. Ethan himself is affected by the morose scenery( although his despair stems mostly from Zeena's constant bickering ). Mattie, a young and vibrant character, isn't too much worse for wear when Zeena sends her away. She simply hadn't stayed long enough to experience the mental erosion caused by Starkfield.
The solitary confinement is another aspect of Starkfield that has a withering affect upon the minds of our characters. The duration of a trip from the Frome household to town is many hours. The people you interact with are the ones you will see your whole life. On the rare occasion you happen to come across a newcomer, the reaction will usually be that of curious delight. That is the reaction Ethan has when he is forced to live with Mattie. Due to the extreme isolation he becomes afflicted with an obsession for Mattie. Zeena instantly becomes an inescapable object of revulsion for Ethan.
The most critical toll Starkfeild exhumes from the main characters is one of imprisonment. In the final pages of the book is ousted by an enraged Zeena. Ethan, now…


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