Ethan Frome By Wharton

They say that if you give a man the necessary tools and supplies, he will build
himself a trap. This trap is made unconsciously; therefore, it cannot be
escaped; the solution cannot be found. The only solution that suffices is to
live with this trap, sadly, for life. But is it the only solution? In Edith

Wharton\'s romantic, yet tragic novel Ethan Frome, the need for affection causes

Ethan Frome to gradually shed his taciturnity and bring his emotions to life.

Early in the novel, Ethan\'s passiveness and lack of self-confidence, allow his
wife Zeena to emasculate him, as well as make him emotionally inarticulate
toward Mattie. Once Mattie Silvers enters Ethan\'s life, she awakens in Ethan the
bitterness of his youth\'s lost opportunities, and a dissatisfaction with his
joyless life and empty marriage. Gradually, Ethan strengthens and gathers the
courage to defy Zeena and confess his love for Mattie. At the start of his
journey, Ethan surrenders himself to the forces of isolation, silence, and his
depleted life. Soon his desire for love, in a situation where only abject
coldness exists, transforms him into an emotional and confident man. Because of
his emotional weakness, Ethan loses opportunities to reveal his passion to

Mattie and also acquiesces to his wife\'s demands, while shunning out his own
needs. After suffering so long with the sickly Zeena, Ethan fears unveiling his
passionate feelings to Mattie, for he is bound as a husband and tradition to

Zeena. Years earlier as a younger and more hale man, Ethan felt trapped in his
hometown Starkfield. Mistakenly, he marries Zeena, a gaunt, sallow nagging hag,
as compensation for her nursing Ethan\'s sick mother. Ethan and his morose,
invalid wife Zeena live in a trapped, unspoken resentment on Ethan\'s isolated
and failing farm. Driven by a perverted need for attention, Zeena claims to have
numerous ailments and employs her destitute cousin to help with the chores. Over
the course of the years, Ethan, lonely and miserable, finds himself falling in
love with Mattie, drawn to her youthful, animated energy. As he walks through
town one night, he stops by the church to watch Mattie dance. As he marvels at
the young girl\'s beauty he thinks, "But hitherto the emotion had remained
in him as silent ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it. He did
not even know whether any one else in the world felt as he did, or whether any
one else in the world felt as he did, or whether he was the sole victim of this
mournful privilege"(17). Ethan lives in his own world of silence, where he
replaces his scarcity of words with imaginations and fantasies. For years Ethan
and his wife live in silence and seclusion. Ultimately, the total lack of
communication between the silent couple significantly contributes to their
miserable marriage as well as Ethan\'s inability to act out his emotions. Ethan,
accustomed to his silent relationship with his wife, flutters when he meets

Mattie and loses complete faith in himself. Fear and doubt overwhelms because
love is a new concept to him; a journey he scarcely ventures. Every time Ethan
tries to converse with his wife, all he ever hears are her complaints and
demands. Thus, he would rather not communicate with her at all. Also, since

Zeena looks down on Ethan, he feels that he also must not be worthy enough for

Mattie. He believes Zeena\'s criticisms and they taunt him when he attempts to
court Mattie. Ethan further displays uncertainty and shyness by restraining
himself from kissing Mattie. The morning after Ethan escorted Mattie home,

Ethan\'s thoughts turn back to last night. As the memory of Mattie\'s warm
shoulder comes back to him, he regrets his failure to kiss her when he had the
chance. Ethan, frustrated, asks himself, "Why had he not kissed her when he
held her there? . . . a few minutes earlier, when they had stood alone outside
the house, he would not have dared to think of kissing her" (29). As a
cold, isolated, and grim figure, Zeena embodies her surrounding. She creates a
loveless, desolate home for Ethan where he never learns to express his love and
affection. When the moment to manifest his passion to Mattie in the form of the
kiss arrives, he becomes nervous, and shies out like a scared lamb. Even more,

Ethan lacks the confidence and courage to stand up for himself against Zeena,
who manipulates Ethan and uses her frail health to justify her bitter
personality. When Zeena returns from her visit