With the intention of committing suicide, Mattie and Ethan head straight for the elm tree at the bottom of the hill. For years that quiet company had mocked his restlessness, his desire for change and freedom. But Zeena is adamant, and her decision is final. Ethan is angry, but realizes that Zeena will have her way. As a young man, Ethan began college, hoping to become an engineer.
GradeSaver, 26 November 2000 Web. Yet every time Ethan seems on the verge of action, he finds himself facing some obstacle and instead of facing it gives in, all the while blaming the external forces that are thwarting him without ever recognizing his own lack of courage. They are always the victims of circumstance, chance, or heredity: Lily Bart and Ethan Frome are worlds apart socially, but both are the victims of tremendous impersonal forces. The frame story resumes in the first-person voice of the Narrator. The next day, Ethan postpones hauling a delivery of lumber to Andrew Hale, a local builder. After a week of riding with Ethan, The Narrator and Ethan are caught in a blinding snowstorm on their return to Starkfield.
The contrast between the vibrant Mattie and sour Zeena couldn't be more strong. His decision to remain honest is one of the few choices he is allowed in the novel, and it lends his character tragic dignity. When Ethan speaks, the voice stops. She returns the kiss, but after a moment withdraws. In an attempt to reclaim his dreams and move to a metropolitan area, Ethan tried to sell the farm, but his efforts were unsuccessful. Chapter 6: Summary: , the hired man, arrives early in the morning to help with the last of the lumber.
He realizes that he can't take advantage of the Hales' understanding and returns home. Neither of the two are killed by the collision, but both are crippled for life. Complaining of heartburn, Zeena leaves the table in search of stomach powders, but returns carrying the broken pickle-dish. She uses her illness as a weapon, and she was content to let him marry her out of a sense of loneliness and obligation. In so doing, he is proving his manhood and his love for Mattie. Zeena also points out that their expenses will be less now that Mattie will be leaving.
In an agonizing irony, Ethan and Mattie have gotten their wish to stay together, but in mutual unhappiness and discontent, with Mattie helpless and paralyzed, and with Zeena as a constant presence between the two of them. Ethan then goes into town to buy glue for the broken pickle dish, and upon his return finds that Zeena has also come home. Ethan Frome begins when The Narrator, an engineer who is living temporarily in Starkfield, Massachusetts while working on a project in a nearby town, becomes curious about Ethan Frome. He gathers bits of the tale from various sources around town. Mattie reacts with shock but rapid acceptance, trying to calm Ethan, while Ethan becomes more agitated and begins to insist that he will not let her go. Comparing Mattie Silver and Zeena Frome, Ammons suggests that the Matties will grow as frigid and crippled as the Zeenas, so long as such women remain isolated and dependent.
Zeena became more sickly and fussy as time passed, and their marriage has been loveless. When he is around Mattie, Ethan feels a sense of mastery. He feels that he cannot abandon Zeena because he knows that she would neither be able to run the farm nor sell it the poor quality of the place has been discussed at several points in the story already. Later that night, as they are sitting in front of the fire, Ethan takes hold of the piece of cloth Mattie is sewing. Once, in the stillness, the call of a bird in a mountain ash was so like her laughter that his heart tightened and then grew large; and all these things made him see that something must be done at once. On the way home, Ethan passes the Frome graveyard again and sees the headstone of his namesake, another Ethan Frome, and his wife, named Endurance.
Ethan and Mattie are taken to the Frome farmhouse when they are physically able and are cared for by Zeena. The sleigh takes off, and Ethan keeps on toward the Hales': if they feel sorry for him, they're sure to loan him the money. On the way down, a vision of Zeena's face startles Ethan into swerving a bit, but he corrects their course, and they crash headlong and at high speed into the elm tree. The two go upstairs to bed without declaring their passion for one another or so much as touching. It is among the few works by Wharton with a rural setting. His impulsive plan to run off with Mattie becomes another unfulfilled dream. .
The setting effects all of the characters in many different ways. The conversation is tense, full of blunders; Zeena is picky and irritable. She would read portions of her novel-in-progress each day to her good friend Walter Berry, who was an international lawyer. They bicker over costs, and Zeena brings up the promised money for the lumber delivery. He begins a farewell letter to Zeena. Together, they mourn the tragic plight of the silent, cursed man and the two women fated to keep him company during the long New England winter nights.