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Ethan Frome (Signet Classics) Reprint Edition

457 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0451527660
ISBN-10: 0451527666
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Editorial Reviews


Tragic novel by Edith Wharton, published in 1911. Wharton's original style and her use of hard-edged irony and the flashback technique set Ethan Frome apart from the work of her contemporaries. The main characters are Ethan Frome, his wife Zenobia, called Zeena, and her young cousin Mattie Silver. Frome and Zeena marry after she nurses his mother in her last illness. Although Frome seems ambitious and intelligent, Zeena holds him back. When her young cousin Mattie comes to stay on their New England farm, Frome falls in love with her. But the social conventions of the day doom their love and their hopes. The story forcefully conveys Wharton's abhorrence of society's unbending standards of loyalty. Written while Wharton lived in France but before her divorce (1913), Ethan Frome became one of the best known and most popular of her works. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

Cambridge Literature is a series of literary texts edited for study by students 14-18 years old in English-speaking classrooms. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics; Reprint edition (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451527666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451527660
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (457 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,232,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
Edith Wharton filled her novels with a feeling of ruin, passion and restriction. People can fall in love, but rarely do things turn out well.

But but few of even her books can evoke the feeling of "Ethan Frome," whick packs plenty of emotion, vibrancy and regrets into a short novella. While the claustrophobic feeling doesn't suit her writing well, she still spins a beautiful, horrifying story of a man facing a life without hope or joy.

It begins nearly a quarter of a century after the events of the novel, with an unnamed narrator watching middle-aged, crippled Ethan Frome drag himself to the post-office. He becomes interested in Frome's tragic past, and hears out his story.

Ethan Frome once hoped to live an urban, educated life, but ended up trapped in a bleak New England town with a hypochondriac wife, Zeena, whom he didn't love. But then his wife's cousin Mattie arrives, a bright young girl who understands Ethan far better than his wife ever tried to. Unsurprisingly, he begins to fall in love with her, but still feels an obligation to his wife.

But then Zeena threatens to send Mattie away and hire a new housekeeper, threatening the one bright spot in Ethan's dour life. Now Ethan must either rebel against the morals and strictures of his small village, or live out his life lonely. But when he and Mattie try for a third option, their affair ends in tragedy.

Wharton was always at her best when she wrote about society's strictures, morals, and love that defies that. But rather than the opulent backdrop of wealthy New York, here the setting is a bleak, snowy New England town, appropriately named Starkfield. It's a good reflection of Ethan Frome's life, and a good illustration of how the poor can be trapped.
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78 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Hanssen on July 12, 2000
Format: School & Library Binding
Once in a while you have to put down those current novels, and read some classic literature. And Edith Wharton is one of the best.
This story takes place in the cold, bleak winter farmlands of Massachusetts. Ethan Frome, a poor farmer, has a hard life tending to his land, trying to make a meager living, and also taking care of his ungrateful, demanding, sickly wife, Zeena. When her cousin, Mattie, comes to help her, Ethan's life changes completely. He falls deeply in love with Mattie. This being the 1800's, he must endure the stifling conventions of that era's society also. There love for each other proves to be a fascinating story.
I loved this book. This is a story that will definitely take you away. You'll actually feel you are there. Edith's detail description of the scenery and landscape of that time are truly vivid. I found myself pausing from my reading to look outside to see if it was actually snowing. I highly suggest you find time to read "Edith Wharton's books, you'll be grateful. I certainly was!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a short, intense novel that absolutely gripped me when I read it. The cold, bleak setting seems so appropriate to Ethan Frome's existence. A life full of obligation and duty, with no hint of joy or spontaneity.

Mattie Silver, a cousin of Ethan's wife Zenobia (Zeena) brings a small amount of light and life into Ethan's life. Ethan pays a heavy price for this, as do both Mattie and to a lesser extent Zeena.

This is a sad novel about duty, tragedy and mutual obligation. It is not a light read, but it is a wonderful piece of prose that demonstrates that there is a form of beauty in brevity.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
In a way, Edith Wharton was at her best in her novellas -- her stories are lean, taut and emotionally deep. That's what "Summer" and "Ethan Frome" have in common, as they look at love, sex, marriage and the conventions of the 1800s. Put together, these novellas are utterly fascinating.

"Ethan Frome" is the male half of a loveless marriage, with the fretful, fussy Zeena. Then Zeena's lovely cousin Mattie Silver comes to live with them, and she brings out a happier, more passionate side of Ethan. But when Mattie is sent away, Ethan must make a decision. He knows he can't stay in his horrible marriage, so will he run away with Mattie? Or will something worse happen?

"Summer" shocked the 1917 public, with its frank-for-its-time look at a young woman's sexual awakening. It takes place in the New England village of North Dormer, where the young librarian Charity lives. But when Charity falls in love with an upper-class young rake named Lucius, she finds herself pregnant and unmarried -- a destructive combination in the 1900s.

Edith Wharton gave unvarnished looks at social conventions throughout her career -- she doesn't judge, she just tells it how it was, whether she's talking about the Roaring 20s or the uptight Victorian era. Divorce was almost unthinkable, affairs scandalous if revealed, and women had the cards stacked against them in matters of love, marriage and sex.

Both novellas also display Wharton's talent for writing characters who were totally unlike her, especially working-class heroes. Charity is an uneducated, naive, rough-mannered young woman, while Ethan is... well, male. Neither is much like Wharton, but she gets inside their heads and makes them entirely believable.
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