I. The main character in the book Ethan Frome is Ethan. He is very sensitive for others and is weighed down from living in Starkfield for so long. Ethan has many different personality traits that are seen with the course of the book. Some of these traits that Ethan expresses are his abilities to help others at his own expense, how hard he works to achieve his goals, and also that he is responsible. Another trait, that some may say is negative, is that Ethan does not stand up for himself, and inconveniences himself for other people, whether it means taking away somebody Ethan loves. The reason Ethan asks Zenobia to marry him is because he needs someone to take care for him since his parents are dead.
II. Zenobia is a sickly person who likes to focus on the treatment of her “sickness” rather on others. She is self-centered and likes to be the center of attention. She holds the position of authority in the Frome household and likes to take advantage of it. Ethan and Zenobia meet while she is taking care of his sick parents.
III. Mattie Silver is Zeena’s loyal cousin who is fully capable of helping Ethan and Zeena. She is really beautiful, young, and energetic. Mattie is a hardworking, down-to-earth kind of girl. Mattie’s relationship with Ethan seems to be a lasting one. They both strong feelings for each other and have many similarities. Although Ethan has this Beat-up, careless look, and Mattie is extremely beautiful they are a perfect match for each other and really care for one another.
IV. Mattie and Ethan come to be able to spend the night together because Zeena has left town to see her doctor. This leaves the couple alone in the kitchen for the night. This is the first time they are alone together and they get to share their past lives with each other and get to show their feelings. They are sitting near the fire and Mattie is knitting while they talk. Ethan wants to kiss her but is afraid so he kisses her scarf that she is knitting. They are falling in love.
V. Ethan and Mattie Decide that they want to die together so they plan to commit suicide by running their sled into the big elm tree. The two pile onto the sled together, with Ethan sitting in front, and Ethan sets the sled into its fatal motion. As they hurtle down the hill, Ethan feels confident that they will hit the tree, but at the last moment he swerves unexpectedly, as he seems to see Zeena’s face before him. The sled glides off in a second of uncertainty before he rights it on its course again. They then hit the elm. Both of them survive. They are both hurt badly and Zeena has to take care of them.
I. There were many themes found in Ethan Frome, but the greatest of them all is loneliness and isolation. In college Ethan acquired the nickname “Old Stiff” because he rarely went out with the boys. Once he returned to the farm to care for his parents, he couldn’t go out with them even if he wanted to. Whatever he’s done has kept him apart from others: tending to the farm and mill, nursing his sick mother and caring for Zeena. Ethan’s isolation is intensified, because he is often tongue-tied. He would like to make contact with others but can’t. For example, when he wants to impress Mattie with beautiful words of love, he mutters, “Come along.”
II. Mattie and Zeena are true opposites. When Mattie first got off of the train she was shown as very depressed and pale. But as weeks pass she gets out of her depression and very quickly becomes a vibrant young woman who shone with natural beauty, something Zeena never had. She was able to win the heart of many young men in a heartbeat. Mattie was everything Zeena wasn’t and she too was able to captivate the heart of Ethan. Mattie was truly in love with Ethan while Zeena only married Ethan out of lust and not for love. Zeena did not love Ethan while Mattie and Ethan were beyond doubt in love.
III. Ethan Frome’s house is wearing away from the many winters it has faced. Like Ethan, they are both bent badly out of shape and need care. Both Ethan and the house represent that many things have come and gone over them, most of which were failures. Both the house and Ethan were shaped by the harsh winters and the many people who lived in the house.
IV. The Frome graveyard represents Ethan’s eternal bond with Zeena. He hates Zeena and doesn’t want to have to spend all eternity lying next to her. This is why he fears the graveyard. The graveyard also represents how the rest of his family was not able to get out of bleak old Starkfield. He wants to lay there for ever with Mattie.
V. The Elm tree symbolizes the end and the escape of two lives. It also symbolizes strength and courage. After the crash, the Elm tree was still standing, while Ethan and Mattie were terribly injured. If Ethan was a stronger person he would not have crashed into the tree with Mattie. He would have had the strength to say “no” in the first place. Zeena who was once a hypochondriac, recovered, and now she has to take care of Mattie and Ethan. “It was a miracle, considering how sick she was-but she seemed to be raised right up just when the call came to her.” (p,131)