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Ethan Frome: Marriage Essay



Fantasy is an escape which almost everyone can exploit in times of desperation and hopelessness. However, it is not equal to the contentment that execution brings. Passage 1 is about a man that is too young and too full of the sap of living who is forced to live by the side of his wife, whom he detested, and who chooses the practical decision of staying with her than pursuing his happiness with the woman that he wishes to be with, Mattie. The author captures Ethans begrudging attitude towards his hopeless and detached marriage by the dejected tone, third person narrative, symbolism and the restrictive setting of the piece.

The author commences with a description of Ethans cold and dark study. This reflects the unhappy atmosphere in the couples house and possibly the marriage. This is followed by the mention of another woman, Mattie. The mans yearning for her is evident; the author signals this by describing Ethans new sense of her nearness through her letter and the description of her lively smile and her warm voice. The author is contrasting this with the unhappy life of the main character with his wife, Zeena, by saying that only cold paper and dead words are left without Mattie. The words cold and dead are reflective of his life with his wife. The author purposely ties in the pleasant words with Mattie and the displeasing words with Zeena and things associated with their life together. This is also a reflection of Ethans favor for Mattie as his light and an escape from his cold and dark marriage. This also provides the probability that Ethan has thought about leaving his wife in pursuit of happiness with Mattie.

The third person narrative allows the reader to have an additional insight of the characters. The author in lines 14-15 asks the reader if Ethan should wear out all his years at the side of a bitter querulous woman. The author obviously views Zeenas character as wicked and horrible and this perspective saturates the readers view and reflects Ethans view of her. This is expanded by reference to a hard object with strange protuberances, later identified as the cushion that she made for him when they were engaged. Ethan flung it across the floor. His action is symbolic of his unwanted and worthless marriage and also the frustration that he feels. The pillow is described with protuberances. This can reflect the marriage as being a hindrance for his and Matties relationship. The author describes Ethans vigor on leaving his wife and also describes Ethans longing for change.

Ethan fantasizes about a life without his wife and for a moment he sees a chance, a possibility that he and Mattie can actually run off together. His feelings of ruin and restriction lifted for a short time with his daydreams becoming an outlet for his hope and longing. He starts writing Zeena a letter. He states, Ive done all I can for you, and I dont see as its been any use. I dont blame you, nor do I blame myself. This affirms that their marriage is based on responsibility and obligations not love. His illusion immediately ceases when he wonders about the money that he needs to start a new life. His vitality turns into abeyance. He becomes incapable of making a decision and following it through with action. Theres a sense of desperation and an image of a man that merely survives- instead of living, hopeless and devastated.

Ethans relationship with Zeena is bereft, detached and hopeless. His marriage is like a prison for him, like his cold, dark study. The delight of running off with Mattie vanished while the inexorable facts closed on him like prison-warders handcuffing a convict. The last sentence of the passage, He was a prisoner for life, is symbolic of his entrapment in his marriage. There is a seeming impossibility for escape. There was no way out for Ethan; he is imprisoned in their house with Zeena as his wife. He has no way to escape his marriage, even with his strong desire to do so.

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