Read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton Free Online
Book Title: Ethan Frome|
The author of the book: Edith Wharton
Date of issue: June 2nd 2009
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 439 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.3
ISBN 13: 9780451531315
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“He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of it's frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface; but there was nothing nothing unfriendly in his silence. I simply felt that he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight, tragic as I guessed that to be, but had in it, as Harmon Gow had hinted, the profound accumulated cold of many Starkfield winters.”
Our narrator, we never learn his name, hired Ethan Frome to drive him around in a sleigh for a few days. A winter storm necessitates that he spend an evening and a night in Frome’s house. He meets Mattie the cousin and Zeena the wife. The situation existing in the House of Frome is an odd one and his natural curiosity spurs him to start an informal investigation into the life of Ethan Frome.
After the opening chapter we flash back twenty-four years to a man in the process of waking up from a life he has found himself trapped in. When Ethan meets Mattie an internal conflict begins. Mattie reads and she reminds on a daily basis, just by her presence, the part of himself that vanished like smoke years ago when he made the decision to stay in Starkfield and take care of his momma. He borrows books from her and starts to remember that other Frome, that other man, who wanted so much more. He is a reed, long bent, that has suddenly found a way to stretch toward the sun once again.
Mattie is a lost soul as well. She hasn’t found her place in the world. She has been sickly, too delicate to find work, and is basically living off the “kindness” of her cousin Zeena. Truth be known, Zeena just wanted someone to take more of the load of her housework. Mattie tries, but never does come up to the expectations of her cousin. Frome can’t help, but compare the differences in the two women.
”Against the dark background of the kitchen she stood up tall and angular, one hand drawing a quilted counterpane to her flat breast, while the other held a lamp. The light, on a level with her chin, drew out of the darkness her puckered throat and the projecting wrist of her hand that clutched the quilt, and deepened fantastically the hollow and prominences of her high-boned face under the ring of crimping pins…. He felt as if he had never before known what his wife looked like.”
”She held the light at the same level, and it drew out with the same distinctness her slim young throat and the brown wrist no bigger than a child’s. Then, striking upward, it threw a lustrous fleck on her lips, edging her eyes with velvet shade, and laid a milky whiteness above the black curve of her brows.”
Drawing from the CD cover of the Douglas Allanbrook Opera of Ethan Frome.
It is not an even contest, Zeena is seven years older than Ethan, but a lifetime spent embracing her own illnesses has made her a hypochondriac. As if to justify her state of mind, lines of disapproval and discomfort have etched themselves into her face and withered the bloom of her youth. Ethan exchanged a sickly mother for a sickly wife. He is trapped in a loop and watching his own life through a veil in gray scale. Until:
“They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods”
A man deserves some happiness. After a lifetime of devoting himself to others he is on the verge of taking back control of his own life. There is this poignant moment when Mrs. Hale lets him know that his sacrifice has not went unnoticed.
”I don’t know anybody around here’s had more sickness than Zeena. I always tell Mr. Hale I don’t know what she’d ‘a’ done if she hadn’t ‘a’ had you to look after her; and I used to say the same thing ‘bout your mother. You’ve had an awful mean time, Ethan Frome.”
As Zeena starts to become suspicious of Ethan’s growing feelings for Mattie she takes steps to send her away and finds a new maid to come live in the house.
“She had taken everything else from him, and now she meant to take the one thing that made up for it all.”
Wharton, deftly, has both characters dance around their feelings. Each filled with longing, believing the other feels the same, but unable to tell each other how they really feel until suddenly they are faced with never seeing each other again.
”They had never before avowed their inclination so openly, and Ethan, for a moment, had the illusion that he was a free man, wooing the girl he meant to marry. He looked at her hair and longed to touch it again, and to tell her that is smelt of the woods; but he had never learned to say such things.”
One kiss can change everything.
(view spoiler)[They commit a desperate act, born out of fear and sadness, that leaves them both shattered shells of themselves. This impulsive act destroys the very best of what they love about each other, and forever leaves those apparitions of themselves suspended on a sled going down a slope. (hide spoiler)]
Edith Wharton wrote this book during a time when she was having difficulties with her husband, Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton. She certainly seemed to feel as ensnared by marriage as her character Ethan Frome, even though she was living on her beautiful Lenox, Massachusetts estate called The Mount at the time. Even lovely surroundings will lose their luster if you are unhappy with your circumstances. Wharton was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1927, 1928, and 1930. She never did win the Nobel, but in 1921, for Age of Innocence (1920), she did become the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. This book seems to attract a mixture of positive and negative reviews today much the same way it did when it was first published. Lionel Trilling says it was lacking in moral or ethical significance. The type of criticism that leaves me shaking my head wondering if we read the same book.
One of my favorite pictures of Edith Wharton
Another interest point was the theme departure this book has from the bulk of Wharton’s writing. Most of her books are centered around the elite New York society, but this one was set in rural Starkfield and involved characters of the lower classes. Despite the change in venue Wharton’s signature writing style is on wondrous display.
We have all felt trapped by our circumstances, maybe a stale relationship or an unfulfilling job or a long stint caring for a sick relative. This book is a masterpiece because it is simply unforgettable and those that love it and even those that didn’t like it are going to have moments in their lives when they think about Ethan Frome, and wish they had a sled and a slope of snow that will take them somewhere else.
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Read information about the authorEdith Newbold Jones was born into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses." The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family's return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the age of eighteen she had written a novella, (as well as witty reviews of it) and published poetry in the Atlantic Monthly.
After a failed engagement, Edith married a wealthy sportsman, Edward Wharton. Despite similar backgrounds and a shared taste for travel, the marriage was not a success. Many of Wharton's novels chronicle unhappy marriages, in which the demands of love and vocation often conflict with the expectations of society. Wharton's first major novel, The House of Mirth, published in 1905, enjoyed considerable literary success. Ethan Frome appeared six years later, solidifying Wharton's reputation as an important novelist. Often in the company of her close friend, Henry James, Wharton mingled with some of the most famous writers and artists of the day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, André Gide, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and Jack London.
In 1913 Edith divorced Edward. She lived mostly in France for the remainder of her life. When World War I broke out, she organized hostels for refugees, worked as a fund-raiser, and wrote for American publications from battlefield frontlines. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her courage and distinguished work.
The Age of Innocence, a novel about New York in the 1870s, earned Wharton the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921 -- the first time the award had been bestowed upon a woman. Wharton traveled throughout Europe to encourage young authors. She also continued to write, lying in her bed every morning, as she had always done, dropping each newly penned page on the floor to be collected and arranged when she was finished. Wharton suffered a stroke and died on August 11, 1937. She is buried in the American Cemetery in Versailles, France.
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