- 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: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 719 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,537,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ethan Frome (Signet Classics) Reprint Edition
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The novel opens with the narration of a stranger to Starkville who sees about the village the tall, slightly crippled, gaunt and uncommunicative Ethan Frome. When circumstances conspire to have the narrator stay the night at the Frome homestead, the novel then continues with the story of Ethan, told from only Ethan's viewpoint. We learn of Ethan's pain, Ethan's anguish, Ethan's unrealized passion.
Given all the Ethan input, I have to say that I still sympathize with Zeena's position. She came to the isolated farm to nurse Ethan's dying mother, and subsequently Ethan felt lonely and asked her to marry him. Big mistake for Zeena! Once married, he found the older Zeena boring. When she talked to him, he didn't even bother to answer. Finally she stopped talking, started whining, became sickly and the communication stopped altogether. When her young cousin, Mattie, arrived to help in the household, Ethan mooned about, gazed adoringly at her, took an uncharacteristic interest in his own appearance and started helping out around the house. Surprise! Zeena gets annoyed! Duh!
Poor (literally) Mattie was only 20 years old and trapped in Frome household. Ethan was kind to her, gave her a lot of attention and, if you can trust the narratiom, she falls in love with Ethan. She was, after all, a young and impressionable girl who would freeze on kindness and perhaps weave romantic fantisies around that kindness. Ethan also encouraged the crush and fanticized about the possibilities of that emotion. Zeena, his wife, does what she can to put a stop to it. Of course.
It all ends in tragedy. Of course.
The women come out badly. Is it possible for a female writer to be a misogynist? Or is Wharton's intention to make us realize that both Zeena and Ethan are actually a victim of Ethan's romanticism.
The symbolism is about as subtle as a tidal wave. The overall tone is cold, dark and depressing. The characters are unlikeable to the extreme. My dislike of them was only partially mitigated by the fact that they end up even more miserable than they began.
On the bright side, it's pretty short. Otherwise, I think it's simply an assignment that allows teachers to pontificate on the same crap they heard from *their* teachers who, of course, heard it from *their* teachers, ad nauseum (literally). Amazon should supply an antidote to accompany it--a book that will get the bad taste of Frome out of readers' heads.
I would have given it 0-1 star if it had been harder to actually read. Fortunately it was sufficiently well written (i.e., lacking in excessive use of dialect and archaic language usage) to allow me to read it in an hour.
This brief peek into the lightless lives of Ethan & Zeeny Frome and Mattie Silver left this reader thankful that the novella wasn't very long. After all, how much bleakness can one person take? While I was perusing this one, I kept thinking to myself `what a shame, if only these people could have been born nowadays...' For in the Frome's little world, the early 20th century world of rural New England, divorce was rarely on option. Instead it seemed to be a privilege almost solely reserved for the extremely wealthy and/or celebrities. Also, Ethan's sickly, hypochondriac wife Zeena is obviously suffering from depression, which of course back in those days was about as treatable as all those phantom illnesses Zeena incessantly griped about.
So our ill-fated protagonist with his altruistic, caring nature is trapped. He is trapped because he is poor. He is trapped in a loveless marriage with a gloomy, woeful wife who does nothing all day but whine. He is trapped in a star-crossed love affair, with both participants knowing full well their heading down a one-way sled-ride to perdition. Ergo, I now know why Edith would pen a quote like the one above? All you have to do is read this short, sorrowful story and you will plainly see for yourself.
The million dollar question obviously is this: Why on Earth would anyone want to read such a melancholy tale about three people doomed to such an unfavorable fate? I am being 100% honest when I tell you folks that I did not think I was going to care for this one at all. I didn't think I was going to care for it after the first two chapters either. However, I couldn't stop reading it... I tried to stop, but I couldn't. The prose, as depressing as it is, is still loaded with charm and at the end of the day there's just no denying that Wharton is one hell of a great writer!
This is NOT a novelette that should be required reading for high-school or even college students. Most of their budding brains have not had enough experiences in life to appreciate and fully comprehend this one. This is a very adult yarn, as are most of Wharton's works, loaded with symbolism, while possessing her favorite theme of illicit love. And of all her heartsick idealists, Ethan Frome is without a doubt her most tragic character. In fact, move over Jude Frawley, Tom Joad, Clyde Griffiths, et al... cause Ethan Frome is arguably the most doomed of you all!
Again, my interest never waned while reading this one. It was very beautifully written and extremely thought provoking. What more can one ask for in a book? To say I was pleasantly surprised would be like saying Monet was a pretty good painter. 5 Stars despite myself!