Ethan Frome\'s Selflessness and Affects of his Responsibilities


Ethan Frome is the main character of Edith Wharton\'s tragic novel. Ethan lives the bitterness of his youth\'s lost opportunities, and dissatisfaction with his joyless life and empty marriage. Throughout the story Ethan is trapped by social limits and obligations to his wife. He lives an unhappy life with many responsibilities and little freedom.

Ethan Frome studied science in college for a year and probably would have succeeded as an engineer or physicist had he not been summoned home to run the family farm and mill. Ethan quickly ended his schooling and went to run the family farm and mill because he feels it is his responsibility. He marries Zeena after the death of his mother, in an unsuccessful attempt to escape silence, isolation, and loneliness. Ethan also feels the responsibility to marry Zeena as a way to compensate her for giving up part of her life to nurse his mother. After marring Zeena he forgets his hope of every continuing his education and he is now forced to remain married to someone he does not truly love. Several Years after their marriage, cousin Mattie Silver is asked to relieve Zeena, who is constantly ill, of her house hold duties. Ethan finds himself falling in love with Mattie, drawn to her youthful energy, as, " The pure air, and the long summer hours in the open, gave life and elasticity to Mattie." Ethan is attracted to Mattie because she is the opposite of Zeena, while Mattie is young, happy, healthy, and beautiful like the summer, Zeena is seven years older than Ethan, bitter, ugly and sickly cold like the winter. Zeena\'s strong dominating personality undermines Ethan, while Mattie\'s feminine, lively youth makes Ethan fell like a "real man." Ethan and Mattie finally express their feeling for each other while Zeena is visiting the doctor, and are forced to face the painful reality that their dreams of being together can not come true

The return to reality was as painful as the return to consciousness after taking and anaesthetic. His body and brain ached with indescribable weariness, and he could not think of nothing to say or do that would arrest the mad flight of the moments He desperately wanted to run away with Mattie, but he could not leave because his practical sense told him it was not suitable to do so partly because of his responsibility to take care of Zeena. This is when he finally realizes and affects of his marrying Zeena out of compensation. Ethan and Mattie attempt to preserve their happiness and remain together the only way they can, in death. It was Ethan\'s job to steer into the elm tree with the sled so that it looked like a accidental death instead of suicide. Instead of running into the tree Ethan thinks of his responsibility of taking care of Zeena and pulls away. The accident did not kill either of them instead it just injured them and these injuries stayed with them forever. At this point Mattie unintentionally becomes the cause of Ethan\'s tragic suffering. The aborted suicide attempt leads to their tragic fate, living a life of physical suffering, so badly that Zeena is forced to take care of them. After the accident Ethan took care of Mattie because he felt responsible for the accident. Now he has to live with the guilt from his wife and injured Mattie. "If she\'d ha\' died, Ethan might ha\' lived." Mattie use to be the joy of Ethan life now she is the burden. After suffering so long with Zeena, Ethan now has to exist with the horrible deformed remains of a once beautiful, sensitive, and loving girl. Once again surrendering himself to the forces of isolation, silence, darkness, cold, and dealing with his obligations to his wife and now Mattie.

Ethan Frome\'s practical sense of putting his responsibilities before his self-interests had a very negative affect on his life. His first decision of marrying Zeena had a big impact on everything he did afterward. It seemed that every thing he tried to do worked against his favor. With all the incidents that happened it seemed inevitable that responsibilities and obligations toward Mattie and Zeena would