Ethan Frome Novel Essay Assignment Paper
Based on “Ethan Frome” novel by Edith Wharton, women have been represented in different ways, particularly through feminism, marriage, and gender roles. The novel portrays a notion about feminism and psychoanalytic ways since it is a naturalist novel besides being a piece of feminist literature. In the previous decades, feminism and rights were being fought for and were not noticeable during that period.
However, a feminist political movement later became visible, which has continued to date, and it mainly focuses on value and respect. Feminism is commonly believed to be a term that supports the rights of women, although it did not get into the English language until the 1890s. It is a notion that works towards equality and not only female superiority since feminists believe in personal choices and respect.
In relation to feminism, there are certain female characters that are empowered, namely Zeena and Mattie, who seem to have control over Ethan. These women characters have been influenced by false societal values and traditions that have been accepted by society’s morals, although various events and life fortunes mainly caused their fight for feminism and rights. Ethan Frome, who is the main character, is socially awkward, introverted, and impulsive, adheres to knowledge, and loves knowledge, and he is greatly affected by the females around him (Geriguis, 2021).
Edith Wharton portrays the character of Ethan Frome as a strange male by showing how absurd the demands of society are on women. Ethan is portrayed as an individual who could not make decisions and listened to others with little or no retaliation. Additionally, some of those decisions that were made were forced upon him, for instance, when he was obligated to stay in his homeland in order to look after his sickly mother.
Centered in the novel, Zeena did not comply with the responsibility of a woman during the 19th century, but instead, she caused many problems against Ethan by complaining about her health and using funds on medicines. According to the traditions and customs, a lady is not allowed to give her husband any financial problems like Zeena did to Ethan. Zeena believes that she does not have to perform certain duties, including household chores, and maintains that its Ethan’s responsibility to pay her back for all the services she offered initially, including caring for his parents (Wharton, 1911).
Being a woman in the feminist novel, Zeena exerts mental domination over him although she is physically disabled, and she influences his thoughts to a level where he has a memory of her “superseded” face against his wish. The authority accredited to Zeena and the impact it has on the thoughts of Ethan, particularly when he is around Mattie, demonstrates the eminence of feminism in the novel.
Despite Ethan being a man, he is depicted as inferior to women in his life since his wife is able to control him and make him do all the things that she wants. Although there is inadequate evidence to support Zeena’s sickness existence, she makes Ethan pay for her expensive treatments besides being aggressive and passive. Zeena also makes nearly all the decisions in the relationship and often complains as Ethan listens with any objection. According to a patriarchal society’s standards, a man should not comply with all the demands of a woman but certain instances in the novel show how he is submissive and acts according to Zeena, which is against those standards.
On the other hand, Mattie Silver, who is young, jovial, and outgoing, has all the authority to take control of everything she needs. She is also furtive and extremely clever, which enables her to manipulate other characters, as demonstrated in the novel. Mattie utilizes the notion of indirect interaction to develop a similar effect. For instance, Mattie’s note that she left for Ethan depicts the levels of manipulation shown by her by influencing her into doing more than he planned to do and raising their communication levels and emotions.
Based on those instances, it illustrates how easy messages might have profound effects on whoever is getting the information. Edith clearly demonstrates how persons can be manipulated through external locations rather than through direct speech. Throughout the novel, Wharton emphasizes the critical value of manipulation on the environment in order to be able to disclose true emotions and desires. He also shows that manipulation is required to raise particular feelings concerning any certain topic. It is evident that Mattie has complete control over Ethan and even his thoughts and may make him think about various things as a woman.
Similar to Edith Wharton’s numerous novels, Ethan Frome illustrates how traditional gender roles restrict the capability of women and destroy the relationship with the male. Throughout the novel, Mattie criticizes gender expectations that caused young women being raised to become nothing more than domestic servants and companions for men. Despite Mattie being an educated woman, she only engaged in tasks that were perceived to offer fewer earnings.
She used to molasses candy, play the piano, recite poetry and trim a hat which would only help her to entice a husband. The novel also illustrates how the traditional division of labor in marriage led to women remaining at home most of the time, busy with household chores while men were out working. In reference to the novel, the notion that the isolation women suffer is factually enraging because the mother of Ethan becomes mad due to loneliness.
Wharton demonstrates how traditional marriage sets up a damaging power struggle between a man and wife because Zeena uses her passive-aggressive “sickliness” to control Ethan and his feelings of inferiority and repulsion for Zeena, which is caused by his lack of control.
Edith describes Ethan’s marriage as oppressive, melancholy, and loveless that is bound to break. She often compares Ethan’s marriage to the weather that is likely to foresee the trouble that the couple is undergoing (Wharton, 1911). Edith relates to Ethan’s marriage as a thick snowfall from the previous night, which indicates that the problem within their marriage would increase. When Zeena travels to Springfield, it shows that she gets to run away from the trouble that she faces.
In conclusion, it is evident that women have been represented in the novel mainly through feminism, marriage, and gender roles. In the past, people believed that women were only meant to stay at home and perform certain duties, including house chores, while men went out to work. The issue of gender roles has always resulted in the discrimination of women because men believe and feel that women are inferior and should not control them.
However, feminism, as depicted in the novel, has helped women, particularly Zeena and Mattie, to recognize that they have important roles to play besides being homemakers. They demonstrate that women too can have control over men, although they seem to impact the life of Ethan negatively. Contrary to traditional customs, Ethan is controlled by Zeena, including the decisions she makes as he remains silent. In order to promote equality in society, men and women should all respect and value each other and work towards satisfying the needs and wants of each person.
Geriguis, L. (2021). Ecoliteracy and Edith Wharton: The Economic Paradigm and the Poetics of Paratexts in Ethan Frome. In Teaching Edith Wharton’s Major Novels and Short Fiction (pp. 225-244). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Wharton, E. (1911). Ethan Frome.