Ethan Frome by: Edith Wharton

        In the novel Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton draws many parallels
between the plot of the novel and its setting. The setting of a cold
and gloomy winter makes for an inevitably cold and gloomy plot. Ethan,
Zeena, and Mattie all contribute to the gloominess of this plot by
either making it worse, or having the chance to improve their
circumstances and not taking it.
        Ethan Frome, a New England farmer, is a very complex,
sensitive, and emotional man, yet no one besides the reader is let in
on this little secret. He feels a great deal of love towards Mattie,
and a great deal of hate towards Zeena, but these feelings are unknown
to the women because he cannot express them. Like most men, Ethan is
afraid to express his feelings to anyone, and because of this problem,
he and Mattie end up crippled and in a constant state of misery, while
the one from whom they are trying to escape ends up as their
caretaker. Ethan's feelings are like the sun that does not shine
during this gloomy winter. And had this sun shone down on the trio,
they could have ended up in a much better state than they did. Perhaps
Mattie and Ethan wouldn't have felt that a double suicide was their
only way out, and maybe (but probably not) Zeena would have understood
that Ethan never loved her, and that it was a one-sided marriage from
the beginning.
        Zeena is a mean, bitter, hypochondriac who has nothing better
to do with her time than to make her husband's life a living hell.
Actually, she has better things to do with her time, but she's a
hypochondriac, so she always has an excuse for why she can't. She
shows no sensitivity towards anyone other than herself. Even when she
realizes that Ethan loves Mattie, instead of her, she shows no
sensitivity towards the couple, and instead ruins the fate of them and
herself by trying to send Mattie away. Zeena is much like the bitter
winter that shows no sympathy to the rest of the world. She...