The theme of failure in edith whartons ethan frome

Essays 1 page, words Edith Wharton is an American author of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In her novella Ethan Frome, Wharton uses symbolism as a means of developing the theme of her story.

The theme of failure in edith whartons ethan frome

How to Write a Summary of an Article? During this time, both men and women were torn between duty and morality, and personal desire. People were expected to follow the societal norms, which although plagued them, were deemed as correct and proper.

Edith Wharton

During this time, society was trapped in a web of their own formed ideas and opinions. But with the recent death of his father, he is forced to return to Starkfield and run the family farm while continuing to provide for his ailing wife.

This negation of his aspirations causes him to live with a sense of regret that plagues him, and drastically effects his future decisions. The truth is that Ethan, being as intelligent and as motivated as he is, did try to leave Starkfield in the pursuit of a fulfilling career in engineering, but was trapped by the harsh grasp of conformity in the form of the Frome Farm.

This failure to accomplish his ambitions gives his persona a tone of remorse, and by extension, the entire novel. The conflict strengthens the theme in the way it shows that if he would have followed his dreams of studying engineering, his life would have played out much differently.

The theme of failure in edith whartons ethan frome

Wharton depicts Zeena as old, cold, and insensitive while Mattie is warm, loving, kind, and most importantly, a much more fitting wife for Ethan. Yet, just like in the case of his engineering career, Ethan cannot bear to leave Zeena, on the account that society would severely frown upon a husband that abandons his sickly wife.

It is important to note that his love for Mattie never falters—The conflict is external, not internal. He is afraid of what people would think, and not whether or not he loves Mattie. Although he has one night alone with Mattie, he cannot stop thinking about all of the responsibilities placed on him.

Time and time again, Wharton shows how society has oppressed Ethan to neglect his aspirations. Even when Ethan has the opportunity to elope with Mattie to the west, his morals keep him from lying to his neighbors to secure the sufficient amount of money to go.

These failures in following his own desire weaken him, and force him to live a life of submissiveness to the wills of society. His desire to conform restricts his happiness.


He felt as if he would never be able to escape the clutch of society, and be with Mattie. As they are coasting down the side of the slope, he becomes mentally encumbered with all of the responsibilities that he would be leaving behind, and becomes distracted.


Instead, he severely cripples both himself and Mattie, forcing them to return to the farm and live like Zeena. In a way, he did succeed in killing both himself and Mattie.

Society did not allow them to die that day, instead, suffer through a forming of living death that will never grant them the happiness they desired in death.LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Ethan Frome, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Determinism and Free Will In Ethan Frome, Wharton explores the concept of determinism—the idea that human lives are determined by outside forces, including social customs, heredity, environment, history, and laws of nature.

The theme of failure in edith whartons ethan frome

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton The novel Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, is set in turn-of-the-century New England, in the fake town of Starkfield, Massachusetts. During this time, both men and women were torn between duty and morality, and personal desire. Edith Wharton packs a lot of heartbreak into her short, and arguably darkest, novel, Ethan Frome.

It is the story of star-crossed lovers, Ethan Frome, and Mattie Silver, the dependent. Major themes in Ethan Frome include silence, isolation, illusion, and the consequences that are the result of living according to the rules of society.

Wharton relies on . A summary of Themes in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Ethan Frome and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans. Ethan Frome, the main character in the book entitled Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, has many complex problems going on at the same time.

His family has died and he has a wife that is continually sick, and the only form of happiness he has is from his wife’s cousin Mattie.

The theme of Determinism and Free Will in Ethan Frome from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes